Written By: Grace Carver
Blood, fire, mud, earth, and flesh.
“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
Modern art is controversial. Splatterings of paint and canvas cans of soup have vied for attention from the public, determined to be instilled with meaning– and thrive on the uproar from people’s belittlement and discreditation. My own opinions are varied and complex, and I don’t want to bore anyone with a lengthy rant on the subject. However, I want to draw everyone’s attention to someone I consider to be a masterful modern artist and whose time on this earth was cut far too short, depriving the world of so much more she could have done.
Ana Mendieta was a Cuban-American artist born in 1984, whose body of work focused primarily around womanhood, violence against women, and women in nature. Her focus on the body and its connection to the earth was profound, personally bringing to mind themes present in the work of the great Frida Kahlo when I first dove into Mendieta’s art. She worked across many mediums, sculpting – often with natural mediums she found in nature – painting, performance art, photography, and videography as ways of capturing her work.
Her most notable work would likely be considered her Silueta series, active from the year 1973 to 1980. In this body of art, Mendieta would lay her own body somewhere in nature, like in the dirt, the grass, or against a tree. Then, she would either cover her body in materials she found – flowers, mud, etc. – or would use the imprint she left behind to create a silhouette.
Born in Cuba and wrenched away from her home at a very young age, Mendieta used these works as a way to reconnect with her home. The Siluetas served as a reminder of how she had been ripped from Cuba, leaving only her body’s imprint in the earth as a symbol of her connection with the land. It is so important for me to say as well that her work was not only a triumph for feminism, but deeply intersectional and a tribute to race, immigration, and intersectionality. Mendieta was quite ahead of her time, while also being so deeply connected with her roots and history in a way that is absolutely stunning and fascinating.
The most heartbreaking part of Mendieta’s story comes at the end of her life, as it was cut tragically and unnecessarily short. The events of what happened the night of Ana Mendieta’s death are unknown to the world. That, of course, has not stopped the massive speculation as to what led to the artist’s fall from her window of the 34th floor apartment she lived in. Her husband, a notable sculptor named Carl Andre, was present in the apartment the night she died. Despite some unexplained evidence, the multiple testimonies of the artist’s family and friends, and three indictments, Andre was acquitted and is still alive today at 87 years old.
I won’t step too far into Mendieta’s death, as I believe her work is what she should be remembered and celebrated for; however, it is a very interesting topic to research if you have the time and interest. While I can’t help but think that Mendieta deserves justice for her mysterious death, her memory must not be shadowed by the speculated violence committed against her by a man. Instead, her work and accomplishments should be the focus of her life. Ana Mendieta is a name that I believe should be more well-known than Warhol, and yet to the general population hers is considered a hidden gem. I am here to shamelessly beg everyone who reads this to please go look at more of this artist’s stunning artwork and to use her as an example of how impactful modern art can be.