Ana Mendieta – Cuban born artist (1948-1985)
Ana Mendieta was born in Havana Cuba to a politically prominent family. At the age of 12 her parents sent her and her older sister to the United States via operation Peter Pan to escape Castro’s regime. She spent several years in a foster home in Iowa with her sister until she was finally reunited with her mother and younger brother in 1966. Her family was later reunited with her father in 1979 when he was released from a Cuban prison for his role in the Bay of Pigs.
Mendieta attended the university of Iowa where she earned her BA and MA in painting and MFA in intermedia.
Her work, described as autobiographical, explored the themes of body image, feminism, cultural identity, body politics, and exile. She used sculpture, video, paint and photography to express her views and record her performances.
Mendieta is most commonly known for her earth body work, the Silueta Series (1973-1980), where she would either use her own body or create a simple primordial female figure out of natural materials like mud, rocks, leaves, sand, etc in various locations between Iowa and Mexico to address the spiritual connection between nature and body.
‘Through my earth/body sculptures I become one with the earth… I become an extension of nature and nature becomes an extension of my body”
– Ana Mendieta
Her tragic death in 1985 shocked the art world. According to reports from neighbors she and her artist husband, Carl Andre were having a loud argument moments before she fell out of the window from their 34th floor apartment in SOHO. Andre was tried and later acquitted of murder charges to the dismay of Mendieta’s close friends who believed that she would never have gone near an open window due to her fear of heights.
Mendieta’s career may have been short lived, but her work is still relevant today with artists, such as myself, who still find ourselves questioning our own physical connection with nature in an age where technology is involved with just about every aspect of our daily lives. I often wonder how Mendieta would incorporate the current trends of phone apps and social media with body image and politics into her Silueta Series if she were alive today.
For additional information about her work and life check out these informative articles below.