Ana Mendieta

  • Ana Mendieta Isla, 1981/1994 Black and white photograph 40 x 30 inches (101.6 x 76.2 cm) Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York

Ana Mendieta (18 November 1948 – 8 September 1985) was a Cuban-American artist famous for her performance art and “earth-body” sculptural, photographic, and video work.

Mendieta was born in Havana, Cuba but moved to the United States at a young age. In 1961, at the age of 13, she and her older sister Raquelin were exiled from Cuba because her family opposed the revolutionary government. They were placed in several institutions and foster care in Iowa through Operation Peter Pan run by Catholic Charities with the collaboration of the US government.

She earned a BA from the University of Iowa in 1969 and subsequently earned an MA in Painting and an MFA in Intermedia. Throughout the course of her career, she created work in Cuba, Mexico, Italy, and the United States of America.

Much of Mendieta’s work may be considered strongly feminist by some; it is in essence autobiographical. One theme in her early performance art was violence against the female body. Later Mendieta focused on a spiritual and physical connection with the land, most particularly in her Silueta pieces, which typically involved carving her imprint into sand or mud, making body prints or painting her outline or silhouette onto a wall. In 1983 she won the Prix de Rome and took up residence in Rome, Italy. During the last 2 years of her life she started creating “objects”, mostly permanent sculptures and drawings, it was her intention to retain the connection with nature via the vibrations of the natural elements she continued to use in the works.

She died on 8 September 1985 in New York from a fall from a 34th floor apartment in Greenwich Village. Eight months earlier Mendieta had married the minimalist sculptor Carl Andre. Andre was tried and acquitted of her murder; during the trial his lawyer described her death as a possible accident or a suicide. In the absence of any witness to her death, other than (possibly) Carl Andre, the exact cause of her death may never be known.

Her estate is managed by the Galerie Lelong in New York City.

Bibliography

Blocker, Jane. Where Is Ana Mendieta?: Identity, Performativity, and Exile. Duke University Press, May, 1999.
Cabañas, Kaira M. “Ana Mendieta: ‘Pain of Cuba, body I Am.'” Woman’s Art Journal 20, no. 1 (1999): 12-17.
Clearwater, Bonnie, ed. Ana Mendieta: A Book of Works. Grassfield Press, November, 1993.
Heartney, Eleanor. “Rediscovering Ana Mendieta.” Art in America 92, no. 10 (2004): 139-143.
Jacob, Mary Jane. “Ana Mendieta: The “Silueta” Series, 1973-1980″. Galerie Lelong, 1991.
Katz, Robert. Naked by the Window: The Fatal Marriage of Carl Andre and Ana Mendieta. Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990.
Kwon, Miwon. “Bloody Valentines: Afterimages by Ana Mendieta”. In: Catherine de Zegher (ed.), Inside the Visible. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston & MIT Press, 1996.
Moure, Gloria et al. Ana Mendieta. Poligrafa, April 2, 2001.
Perreault, John and Petra Barreras del Rio. Ana Mendieta: A Retrospective. The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 1987.
Raine, Anne. “Embodied Geographies: Subjectivity and Materiality in the Work of Ana Mendieta.” In Feminist Approaches to Theory and Methodology: An Interdisciplinary Reader, edited by Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Christina Gilmartin, and Robin Lydenberg, 259-286. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Rauch, Heidi, and Federico Suro. “Ana Mendieta’s Primal Scream.” Américas 44, no.5 (1992): 44-48.
Viso, Olga. Ana Mendieta: Earth Body. Hatje Cantz Publishers in collaboration with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2004.
Viso, Olga. Unseen Mendieta: The Unpublished Works of Ana Mendieta. New York: Prestel, 2008.
Walker, Joanna, ‘The body is present even if in disguise: tracing the trace in the art work of Nancy Spero and Ana Mendieta’. Tate Papers, Spring 2009. See http://www.tate.org.uk/research/tateresearch/tatepapers/09spring/joanna-walker.shtm

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