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Ana Mendieta
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Wikipedia About Ana Mendieta

Ana Mendieta (18 November 1948 – 8 September 1985) was a Cuban American performance artist, sculptor, painter and video artist who known for her “earth-body” art work. Mendieta was born in Havana, Cuba. At age 12, in order to escape Fidel Castro’s regime, Ana and her sister Raquelin were sent to the United States by their parents. Through Operation Peter Pan, a collaborative program run by the U.S. Government and the Catholic Charities, Mendieta and her sister were moved through several institutions and foster homes in Iowa. Full Wikipedia Article

essay Ana Mendieta, Walker Art Center Collections, 2005

Born to a prominent Cuban family in Havana, Ana Mendieta moved to the United States with her sister at age thirteen, where she lived and worked in Iowa until relocating to New York in 1978. In her best-known works, the Silueta and Fetish series created in the open air and preserved in photographic documentation, Mendieta made impressions and reliefs of the contours of her body in the ground with both arms raised as if in prayer like an orant figure; these later developed into more fully sculptural effigies. The series had clear ties to the Earth goddess spirituality that feminists of the 1970s embraced as a critique of phallocentric, patriarchal religious ideologies and social structures. At the same time, the works arose from the artist’s particular interest in the Afro-Cuban religion of Santería, likely driven by her own ethnic and cultural identification.

Mendieta was greatly concerned with the marking of the body with various categories of classification, such as gender and ethnicity. In the 1970s, the field of visual art was opened up by diverse new praxes, which took it in various directions—away from commodification and conventions of display, off the grid, and out into open lands. With her body serving as a potent medium interacting with the earth and by relinquishing her art-making to the natural forces of entropy, she uniquely combined contemporary concerns that were unfolding in Conceptual Art, Earth Art, and Body Art.

Even before her “return to nature,” however, the body was at the center of Mendieta’s artistic production. In the series of performative works she created in 1972 as her MFA project at the University of Iowa, she submitted her (often nude) body to simulations of violation and mutation: transferring shaved-off facial hair of a male collaborator onto her face (Facial Hair Transplant, 1972); pressing sheets of glass on her face, breasts, and buttocks to flatten and twist them out of shape (Glass on Body, 1972); and perhaps most disturbingly, staging scenes of sexual violence complete with fake blood (Rape Piece, 1972). In Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations) (1972/1997), two series of self-portraits in the Walker Art Center’s collection, she deploys a host of rather simple devices—hosiery, makeup, wigs—to disguise and distort her facial features. As much as her face is “made up” to be ugly approaching on repugnant, it is also “unmade” beyond recognition. In her resolute exploration of transformative possibilities that lie in altering the body, Mendieta was in historical league with the likes of Eleanor Antin, Adrian Piper, and Hannah Wilke, among others, and laid the groundwork for such artists as Cindy Sherman.

    Chong, Doryun. “Ana Mendieta.” In Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections, edited by Joan Rothfuss and Elizabeth Carpenter. Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2005.

    © 2005 Walker Art Center