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Artists Ana Mendieta
Ana Mendieta Photo

Ana Mendieta

Cuban-American Performance Artist, Sculptor, Painter, Photographer and Video Artist

Movements and Styles: Feminist Art, Performance Art, Body Art, Land Art

Born: November 18, 1948 - Havana, Cuba

Died: September 8, 1985 - New York City

Ana Mendieta Timeline

Quotes

"By making my image in nature I can deal with the two cultures. My earth-body sculptures are not the final stage of a ritual but a way and a means of asserting my emotional ties with nature and conceptualizing religion and culture."
Ana Mendieta
"My art is grounded in the belief of one universal energy, which runs through everything: from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy. My works are the irrigation veins of this universal fluid. Through them ascend the ancestral sap, the original beliefs, the primordial accumulations, the unconscious thoughts that animate the world."
Ana Mendieta
"My art is the way I re-establish the bonds that unite me to the universe. It is a return to the maternal source. "
Ana Mendieta
"Art is a material act of culture, but its greatest value is its spiritual role, and that influences society, because it's the greatest contribution to the intellectual and moral development of humanity that can be made."
Ana Mendieta
"I have been carrying out a dialogue between the landscape and the female body (based on my own silhouette). I believe this has been a direct result of my having been torn from my homeland (Cuba) during my adolescence. I am overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature). My art is the way I re-establish the bonds that unite me to the universe. It is a return to the maternal source."
Ana Mendieta
"The obsessive act of reasserting my ties with the earth is an objectification of my existence."
Ana Mendieta
"Now I believe in water, air, and earth. They are all deities. They also speak. I am connected with the goddess of the sweet water-...it is raining a lot. Those are the things that are powerful and important. I don't know why people have gotten away from these ideas."
Ana Mendieta

"I decided that for the images to have magic qualities I had to work directly with nature. I had to go to the source of life, to mother earth."

Ana Mendieta Signature

Synopsis

Ana Mendieta's short life was a study in displacement and its effects on a person's soul - both positive and negative. From her early years when she was separated from her Cuban family to become an adopted refugee in America throughout her adolescent years when she felt like an outsider growing up in the Midwest, the young artist felt an ever-present disconnection from the concepts of mother, place, identity, belonging, and home. For 15 of her 37 years, she explored this ache through her work, which was primarily performance, photography, and film-based. She aimed to jostle the nonchalance of people in ways that would provoke them to connect with each other more authentically, to understand that they were essentially one within humanity, and that the earth was the supreme mother to all. She wanted to pierce the veils of perceived difference in many spheres including gender, race, and geography and asked us to perceive our own indifference to more unsettling things within our midst such as prejudice and violence. The ongoing dialogue between her own body and the landscape regarding presence, absence, and the inevitable cycles within nature and life would come to be seen as an eerie foretelling of her tragic end when she fell from the window of an apartment building. However, Mendieta's impact remains, much like the images she made, stained in the psyche, asking us to consider the spiritual, ethereal, and physical connections present in our own thirst for being.

Key Ideas

Mendieta was a key figure in the Body art movement that emerged from the Performance art movement. Her sustained use of the body's simplified and often nude form to depict both presence and its opposite, absence is an essential component to her work whether denoting the human or the ethereal.
Mendieta is recognized as an important contributor to Land art, a movement in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked, taking the possibilities of art outside gallery confines. She used the natural environment as a perpetual setting throughout her career, most memorably in her earth-works such as Siluetas, which were created in various natural locations with particular meaning to the artist and adorned with elements indigenous to the areas.
Merging with the earth not only became a mark-making process for Mendieta, but also a metaphorical return to mother and ritualistic homage to a universally generic, feminine earth goddess. In the end, the land was perhaps her greatest collaborator, helping her express the body's place within the world and its relationship to nature.
Mendieta is also oftentimes connected with the Feminist art movement for her work on the fluidity of gender and the manipulation of her own body parts to blur the line between male/female identification. But also, she often embraced her own feminine spirit and feminine mysticism in her work, unapologetically and with copious amounts of joy.
The consistent use of blood and other organic material such as feathers, rocks, flowers, fire, and the earth reflect Mendieta's passion for religious ritual. She was especially inspired by the strain of Cuban Catholicism known as Santeria. Much of her artwork materialized as a sort of rite, orchestrated to articulate the perpetual cycles of life, death, womanhood, rebirth, and renewal.
Because of her early displacement from family and home and the trauma that produced in her early life, Mendieta became a lifelong champion of the marginalized or minoritized whether by racism, sexism, or geography. Much of the passion that went into making her work was stoked by a desire to have everybody recognize those considered "other bodies" and to accept humanity as one throbbing whole rather than a world of disjointed individuals.
Violence remains a mysterious ingredient in Mendieta's legacy. Themes of domestic violence, of turning a blind eye to violence, and forced participation in witnessing violence can all be found as a parallel strain to her more earth, feminine, nature-inspired pieces. Although never really answered, this preoccupation beats below the surface and has raised many questions over the years within fans, critics, and her own personal friends about whether or not Mendieta had personal experience of abuse especially, most poignantly, in regards to the way her life tragically ended.

Biography

Ana Mendieta Photo

Early Period

Ana Mendieta was born in 1948 in Havana, Cuba. When she was a mere 12, she was sent to America along with her sister Raquelin as part of the Peter Pan operation, a government-sponsored project for Cuban children to flee Fidel Castro's dictatorship. The project conveyed over 14,000 minors to the United States between 1960 and 1962, operating under the radar out of fear that it would be seen as an anti-Castro political undertaking. The refugee sisters spent some time in Florida before being sent to Iowa, where they lived in foster homes and were enrolled in reform school.

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Ana Mendieta Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Ana Mendieta
Interactive chart with Ana Mendieta's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Kara WalkerKara Walker
Hermann NitschHermann Nitsch
Chris BurdenChris Burden
Robert SmithsonRobert Smithson
Vito AcconciVito Acconci

Personal Contacts

Carolee SchneemannCarolee Schneemann

Movements

Viennese ActionismViennese Actionism
FluxusFluxus

Influences on Artist
Ana Mendieta
Ana Mendieta
Years Worked: 1970 - 1985
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Kate GilmoreKate Gilmore
Simone LeighSimone Leigh
Tania BrugueraTania Bruguera

Personal Contacts

Carolee SchneemannCarolee Schneemann
Nancy SperoNancy Spero

Movements

Feminist ArtFeminist Art
Performance ArtPerformance Art
Body ArtBody Art
Land ArtLand Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Alicia Lopez

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Alicia Lopez
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Kimberly Nichols
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