Ana Mendieta was a Cuban American performance artist, sculptor, and painter. She was born in 1948 in Havana, Cuba where her family actively partook in the country's politics. By the age of 12, Mendieta and her sister were sent to the United States by their parents in order to escape Fidel Castro's regime. She bounced around refugee centers and institutions before being reunited with her parents in the US. She attended the University of Iowa and earned her MA in Painting and MFA in Intermedia. Mendieta's work focuses on themes like feminism, violence, life, death, and nature.
A lot of her early work, such as Facial Hair Transplant, examined gender norms. In the portraits shown, Mendieta transfers the facial hair of her male friend to her own face. The process not only challenged what facial hair meant in regards to gender but also looks at the act of depilation. Some women choose to depilate in order to get rid of facial hair, but in this "transplant" Ana's goal is to have a beard.
The work she is most recognized for is her Silueta Series which combined land art, body art, and performance art. The series revealed Mendieta's interest in the earth and examined issues of displacement by recording her presence within different natural environments. She often filled the silhouette of her body on the earth with various materials such as rocks, twigs, flowers, blood, and gunpowder. "My art is grounded on the belief in one universal energy which runs though everything," she wrote in an artist's statement from the early 1980s, "from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy."
Ana is also known for using blood as a medium. One of her early performances was "Death of a Chicken." It featured a naked Ana standing in front of a white wall holding a flailing chicken. She would then decapitate it and let the blood splatter on her body. It's intention was to pay homage to santeria and the spiritual power of ancient cultures-that a lot of the time featured animal sacrifices and rituals. Her works also addresses violence against women like the video "Sweating blood"- A short video that features a close up of her face with blood eventually trickling down from her forehead. There is also the "Rape" performance where Ana invited people into her home to then see her bleeding and tied to a table, in response to the brutal rape and murder of a fellow University of Iowa student.
"Untitled" (Sweating Blood)
Unfortunatley Ana died in September of 1985 at the age of 36. She fell out the window from her 34th floor apartment in Greenwich Village after allegedly arguing with her her drunk husband, sculptor Carl Andre. However Andre was acquitted for insufficient evidence of any wrongdoing.
Her legacy and work has continued to make an impact after her death. Ana's work has been featured in many major public collections, including the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Centre Pompidou in Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, and the Tate Collection in London.
- Mark Stevens. "Human Nature". New York Magazine. - http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/art/reviews/9525/
- Sean O'Hagan. "Ana Mendieta: death of an artist foretold in blood." The Guardian. - http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/sep/22/ana-mendieta-artist-work-foretold-death
- Lorena Muñoz-Alonso. "Ana Mendieta: Silueta and Silence." TT Contemporary Art Magazine. - http://www.thisistomorrow.info/viewArticle.aspx?artId=266
- Leslie Camhi. "Her Body, Herself." The New York Times. - http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/20/arts/art-her-body-herself.html
- MOCA: http://www.moca.org/pc/viewArtWork.php?id=87