Women's Activism NYC

Ana Mendieta

1948 - 1985

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Ana Mendieta was a Cuban-American painter, performance artist, video artist, and sculptor; she was best known for her “earth-body” artwork. However, before she could share her art with the world, Mendieta faced many obstacles in her life. At the age of 12, she became a refugee after fleeing Cuba to live in the U.S. with her sister when her father joined anti-Castro counter-revolutionary forces. Mendieta was not reunited with the rest of her family until many years later. The hardships she was faced with ended up playing a role in her artwork. Mendieta created about 200 pieces of art within her lifetime, utilizing the earth as the vehicle and foundation for most of them. She also incorporated spiritualism, magic, native forms of knowledge, and organic materials, such as feathers, fire, wood, and blood in her work. Additionally, Mendieta was a proud feminist, which was also conveyed within her art as she used her body as another subject of her films, photographs, and more. While receiving her Master of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa, Mendieta went to Mexico and began working on one of her most notable works: the Silueta (Silhouette) series. In this work, she used her body, or a simple outline of her figure, to make impressions on multiple sites that were outdoors, carving and shaping her figure into the earth. The impressions were documented through photography and film. This series was meant to demonstrate a ritualistic relationship between Mendieta and the land, serving as a reconstructed way of recognizing oneself. The work highlights the spiritual connections between the body and nature, which stirred up some controversy throughout the years. Mendieta also performed scenes, including a rape scene in her apartment in response to the rape and murder of a local student, using her own body to address violence against women. Mendieta was a creative visionary who utilized her pain, experiences, body, and passion for female rights and spiritualism, along with nature and the earth, to create significant works that will never be forgotten.

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