Two identical women are seated in ritual costume against a stormy sky with superimposed, interconnected hearts while holding hands. Their faces impassive serene and yet resigned.
Painted when Frida Kahlo was divorced from Diego Rivera she is depicted as two conflicting yet connected portraits of her persona. She grasps her hands and where, on the right she clasps a locket of Rivera and shows her exposed heart intact, on the left her heart is dissected and she holds macabre surgical scissors. The left image is the Kahlo that is rejected.
A looming portrait with a tattooed face seems to push beyond its frame with tendril like petals in a halo. A delicate vale flows downward in a sweep of satin upon an organic background suggesting eternal nature.
Kahlo is painted in traditional Mexican Tehuana costume and she has just married Rivera. Streaming, living tendrils branch outward in all directions representing sprouting organic life and renewed love. An indelible tattoo of Rivera on her forehead symbolises his permanency.
A bounding deer in a woodland clearing seems strangely foreboding and ever so vulnerable. It has a human head and the pierced abdomen with bloodied arrows makes reference to Saint Sebastian. The soft earth green of the wooded Eden and distant sky are abruptly truncated with nightmarish trees.
The Aztec symbol for the human right foot is the deer and Kahlo’s has been injured by a terrible bus accident and also polio. During the period of this painting she became interested in mysticism and Eastern religion. The arrows represent her ongoing suffering from her problematic relationship and physical injuries.
So which interpretations is correct – the dark text or the light text? Kahlo’s unique symbolism and personal life story reveal thelight text interpretation to be closest to the truth.
In 1925, Frida Kahlo had a near fatal traffic accident when her school bus collided with a street car. An iron hand rail impaled her through the pelvis fracturing ribs, collarbone and displacing three vertebrae. She was to sustain illness and pain related to this accident for the rest of her life. Months in hospital and recuperation led to her taking up painting while bedridden.
She quickly developed artistically and realised her aptitude for art enabled her to directly explore and express her life experiences. Much of the symbology in her paintings reference her physical and emotional pain brought on by the traffic accident.
She joined the Mexican Communist Party in the late 1920’s in her slow recovery ending her confinement and she began to mingle with political activists and artists.
The next critical phase in her life occurred on meeting Diego Rivera when she approached him to assess her work. This fateful meeting would lead to their marriage and life-long artistic bond. But he was a womaniser and the pain and anguish is again evident in the paintings.
In the late 1920’s a fascination in Mexican folk art including pre columbian art with its flattened perspective and unique colouring began to influence her art and she was to adopt the wearing of traditional costume and jewellery.
Like other historically famous figures in art she was to be posthumously recognised decades later & not in her lifetime. She is now firmly established in the pantheon of international art.
I’ve known Bronwen for as long as I can remember. While I rarely saw her she seemed ever present – the unique mix of the familiar with unfamiliar that accompanies a relative close in age and family traits.
We grew up in very different places; me, in a rather repressed Protestant backwater; she, in a utopian paradise where the cowboys reign and the rivers run free (or so it seemed back then).
Recently we’ve had long conversations regarding the mysterious relationship between mind & spirit and it is timely she’s currently investigating the fascinating subject of science & the mind in an anticipated opus.
Do you have a stand out memory from your childhood?
The sound of magpies voices coming through the window, running across a plowed field, full of clumps of black earth, and the musky smell of native peppercorn trees in the summer heat. These are the sensory memories of my childhood, and also my earliest memories. My focus was always on nature.
What was your earliest childhood memory?
So many memories get rewritten by discussion. Parents usually say, “Do you remember when…” until we think we remember it ourselves, but in reality it is a transplanted reality. So I can’t really be sure what my earliest memory was. Perhaps body-centered memories are easiest to recall, and validate as our own. So I would have to say my earliest memory is the time I was crawling around on all fours under a bed. As a toddler I was naked most of the time, except for a nappy. I caught my bare back against a loose-ended wire spring. I can still recall the sharp, almost itch scrape. As I came out from underneath my mother made a fuss presumably because of blood. It never really hurt but I have the long white scar on my back to this day.
What did your parents do? How did they influence you (in any special way in life)?
My father was a rebel who tried his hand at many career choices before settling on becoming a lecturer in managerial accounting. He had been reared for a good while by his uncle who was a plumber. I suspect this had started his interest in do-it-yourself home handy-man activities. Although he was never one to settle for small. I will forever be grateful for this because he taught me, often learning himself at the time, so many skills. We laid flooring, built a swimming pool, stacked and laid bricks, and inside, learnt to bake bread from scratch and how to bone out a carcass and filet a fish. I took it for granted that these were abilities everyone had access to, without realizing how important they were in confidence building. Instead of saying “I can’t” this approach taught me that anything is possible.
My mother lived to support my father and care for the family. She was inherently creative and with that came imagination. Instead of down-to-earth talks she led us on flights of fancy, and nothing excited her more than a dinner party or a house extension. She taught me the importance of an open mind.
Is there a stand out moment in your life you can recall or special moment that changed your life?
Probably the time that I almost died from a bee sting is the day that changed my life most profoundly. Slowly my reaction to stings had grown worse and worse over the years. I tried to avoid being around honeybees but this was a difficult ask since I loved to be outside. One day, down the street on a spare block, neighbourhood kids were gathering to watch a hive being robbed, and I could not miss out on that!
Even though we kept out distance, inevitably I was the one standing next to the kid who started swatting at a disoriented bee. The sting that landed on me, right in the middle of my forehead, started up a reaction by the time I had run home. Heat was rising. Although I felt like I was still the same person inside, my body had decided it belonged to someone else. It was the incredibly rapid heartbeat that was the most odd, and debilitating. At first I felt a panic rising. This might be the end and at that moment I really didn’t want to die. It felt unfair that my body could just up and do something like this to me. I remember being rushed to medical help; carried through to the local doctor’s surgery, past waiting clients. And then it blanks out. I was out cold for half an hour. When I did come around my vision was strange. The doctors face was close to mine and I remember his nose looking unusually large – distorted – as if viewed through lens with a barrel distortion.
That experience was the first time I became acutely aware of the duality of existence – an inner sense of self as steady as a rock, while my body was busy doing all kinds of crazy things. The ‘me’ inside was just the same and not changed at all. I learnt how to detach. It cured me of a fear of death, because in what felt like an eon waiting for my body to give out, I found I had freed my real self of the need for that body.
Is there someone who especially influenced you in any way?
So many people have influenced me in special ways but no one person has changed the course of my life. Although the death of my partner catalyzed a need to break from my academic career. When things like that happen I think we all look around for patterns and meaning in our lives. I wanted to throw myself into writing full-time, and the means to do that appeared.
Have you lived outside of your present city or country? What were the circumstances?
Apart from visits to various places, I have lived in the UK, and worked there. It was only for a year but provided a wonderful contrast to Australia. It helped me realize what a fantastic country Australia is, with its wide blue skies and hot summers.
What is your favourite food or cuisine?
I would have to say Chinese cuisine.
Who is your favourite celebrity (past or present) & why?
I don’t really connect to celebrity as a concept. It is birthed through image and privilege, or just raw luck. But those prepared to stand against the flow, with logic, hard work and morals, I do find inspiring. Steven M. Greer is one example currently active in the media.
Who is your favourite musician & why?
I don’t have a single favourite, it all depends on my temperament at the time.
Who is the person you’d most want to have a conversation over dinner with (anyone for any reason)?
Tesla – the unexplored hero of physics.
If you could only take a handful of records (music) to a desert island, what would they be?
More than likely I would take podcasts – conversations by today’s great minds on a range of topics – rather than music. I can always sing for myself.
If you could bring just one or two books to a desert island, what would they be?
Something practical – like ‘No Mercy: True Stories of Disaster, Survival and Brutality’
A good science fiction book – like ‘Helix’ by J.L. Bryan
What book are you reading at the moment (fiction or non fiction)?
Non-fiction: ‘The Memory Code’ by Lynne Kelly
Fiction: ‘Precious Gifts’ by Danielle Steel
What is your secret vice (anything, drink type, chocolate etc)?
I do like chocolate
Favourite word or saying?
How do you relax or spend your time when not working?
Meditating or in the garden looking after plants
Is there something you have done you are most proud of?
Pride has a quality of judgment so I try to steer clear of it. If I attach pride to life’s experiences I will also feel compelled to apportion failure to various endeavors. The family motto ‘I try’ is more apt.
Dr Bronwen Cribb is a scientist and is writing a book uncovering ground breaking research on the nature of the mind.
The following fauna is familiar in the Australian bush and if you’re lucky you may see it in your backyard.. Perhaps for its iconic bird song alone, the Kookaburra’s distinctive laughter is quintessentially Australian.
It is a member of the Kingfisher family (of which there are more than ten Australian species)* and is also known as the laughing jackass.
It has a large head, a massive neck and bill for catching prey and breaking their necks. Earth tone camouflage plumage and the ability to perch motionless and undetected are ideally suited for catching prey.
*Of these there are strictly only two true kingfishers: the Azure Kingfisher and the Little Kingfisher of the genus Ceyx.
Kookaburra, Dacelo gigas
ii) ‘you can’t see me, i’m camouflaged’
iii) ‘is this real grub?’
iv) three’s a crowd
Aptly named the Blue tongue, the Tiliqua Scincoides or Blue Tongued Skink has a characteristic and distinct blue coloured tongue. It is a relatively large lizard, up to 45cm in length in some cases.
It is ground feeding, omnivorous and its diet includes snails, slugs, fruit, berries, flowers and insects. Grey stripes cover most of its body contrasting with a pale grey belly. The limbs are especially small and the head is a characteristic triangular shape.
It is relatively common in Australian suburbs and can be bred in captivity.
Blue Tongue, Tiliqua scincoides
i), ii) & iii) climbing a step
iv) ‘smile & i’ll crack the lens’ v) distant relative..
The Koala hardly needs an introduction as it is so celebrated and is universally recognised as an Australian symbol. Its closest living relative is the wombat and is found in coastal regions of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia (not Western Australia or Tasmania).
The diet is primarily eucalypt leaves and the limited nutritional and caloric content demands twenty hours of sleep a day.
If you see a koala up a tree alone and drenched in torrential rain, don’t underestimate it. Having especially thick insulating fur (the most of any marsupial) it is specifically adapted to stave off wind and rain as well as solar radiation. Unique body symmetry and long claws mean for tree scaling and effortless mobility in treetops.
Large scale culling of koalas early in Twentieth Century resulted in public outcry and the species is since protected and has established sanctuaries. Re-habitation and breeding programs are re-establishing numbers.
Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus
i) ‘yes, i know i’m handsome but hurry up’
ii) well, hello
iii) two opposable digits for grasping
Champions of navigation and flying, pigeons and doves have adapted to vastly variable habitats. The Crested Pigeon is known for its beautiful head feathers, bright pink legs and feet and its subtle coloured wing feathers. A single ‘woo’ call and a special tinkling sound created during take-off are also distinctive. The Crested Pigeon must have close proximity to water.