Kahlo’s first letter to Rivera in the diary, scrawled in looping cursive, reveals a potent mix of violence, anguish, love, and art. “I ask you for violence, in the nonsense, and you, you give me grace, your light and your warmth,” she writes, in a nod to the explosive nature of their relationship. And then, immediately after, she affirms her love for him in a language they both understand all too well: painting. “I’d like to paint you, but there are no colors, because there are so many, in my confusion, the tangible form of my great love.” Kahlo’s passion for Rivera is so intense and multifaceted, she explains, that there aren’t enough hues to capture it.
In other letters, too, Kahlo uses the vocabulary of color to describe sex and love. “Your eyes green swords inside my flesh. waves between our hands. All of you in a space full of sounds — in the shade and in the light. You were called AUXOCHROME the one who captures color. I CHROMOPHORE — the one who gives color.” Auxochromes and chromophores, the yin and yang of color theory, are the molecular building blocks that allow us to see the world in all its numerous shades. In Kahlo’s missive, they represent a romantic relationship wherein one gives and the other takes.