While scrolling through a list of Friday Kohl’s artwork, I stumbled upon her painting titled Henry Ford Hospital. The thumbnail alone Jumped off of the screen and caught my eye. I was immediately pulled in by the beauty of the female figure lying nude on a hospital bed. Upon further inspection of the image, it became quite clear which aspects of this piece I gravitated towards and why. The image is a painful self-portrait surrounding the experience of Friday’s second miscarriage.
While I can not relate to the tragedy of losing a wanted fetus, I can strongly relate to the grief experienced during and after the expulsion of one’s womb. In this piece, Friday has painted herself on a hospital bed with a pool of blood surrounding her and a somewhat contorted body. Her legs and pelvis are twisted away from the viewer, suggesting her discomfort or perhaps even shame. She has her hands cradling her still bloated belly with what appear to be six different umbilical cords leading to different symbolic objects.
Attached to the umbilical cords are the fetus, a snail, a dying orchid, a medical machine, a human pelvis, and the sidewise of diagram depicting the female anatomy. The fetus is that of her would-be sons Disguise, or “Little Diego’ (her husband’s name). The snail is thought to be representative of her painfully slow delivery of a dead baby. The single orchid, which is said to be a real orchid that her husband gave her, has long been viewed as a symbol of love, strength, and sexuality. The medical machine pictured, to me, seems to be a symbol of the cold and sometimes robotic process of any medical procedure.
The final two items connected to Friday’s abdomen, the diagram of the female body and a pelvic bone, portray an awareness of what this second miscarriage meaner hectically for her body. In the background of the image, we see the many industrial buildings of Detroit, where Friday was at the time of the miscarriage. In 1925, Friday Kohl was involved in a terrible bus accident which left her with a broken pelvis, a broken spinal column, and various other injuries. Friday was told she would most likely never be able to have children. In 1929 she married Diego Riviera and soon she became pregnant. This original pregnancy ended in abortion.
Due to her because previously broken pelvis, the fetus was positioned incorrectly which was risk to both Friday and the child. By the time her second pregnancy occurred in 1932, it was clear to Friday that Diego had not wanted children. In an attempt to abort the child, she had unsuccessfully taken quinine. Realizing her failure to terminate Friday chose to continue with the pregnancy. Three and half months pregnant, Friday was admitted to the hospital with severe hemorrhaging and eventually suffered a miscarriage. This painting was created very soon after a traumatic event that made her realize that she could never carry a pregnancy to term.