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Ana Mendieta

Born in Havana, Cuba, Ana Mendieta was exiled from her native country in 1961, just before the outbreak of
the Cuban Revolution. Much of Mendieta's work expresses the pain and rupture of cultural displacement, and
resonates with visceral metaphors of death, rebirth, and spiritual transformation. A seminal figure in feminist
art practice of the 1970s, Mendieta devised an emblematic, at times mythical female iconography.
In 1972 Mendieta began making ritualistic performances and haunting earth works, in which she immersed or
inscribed her own body within nature. Blood, fire, water, and other natural elements are essential to her highly
personal, often mystical vocabulary. Burial and regeneration are recurrent themes. Mendieta's ephemeral
"earth-body sculptures" and provocative performances were documented through film, video and photography.
Whether painting her body with blood, or burning, carving and inscribing female symbols into the landscape, as
in her Silueta series, Mendieta's work is infused with enormous power and poetry.
Mendieta writes: "I have been carrying on a dialogue between the landscape and the female body (based on my
own silhouette)... I am overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature). Through my
earth/body sculptures I become one with the earth... I become an extension of nature and nature becomes an
extension of my body..."
Over a fourteen-year period Mendieta made more than seventy films and videotapes that document her
powerful body-based performances and landscape sculptures. A selection of these works has now been made
available.
Ana Mendieta was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1948, and died in 1985. She studied at the University of Iowa,
where she created many of her early performance works. Mendieta's performances were also held at Franklin
Furnace, New York; Oaxaca, Mexico; Belgrade and Antwerp. Her work has been included in exhibitions at the
Bronx Museum, New Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Whitney Museum of Art, New York; and the Muse
National d'Art Moderne, Paris. One-person exhibitions by Mendieta were held at A.I.R. Gallery, New York; Museu
de Arte Contempornea, So Paolo, Brazil; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, and Primo Piano,
Rome. Following her death, retrospective exhibitions have been organized by the New Museum of Contemporary
Art, New York; Pat Hearn Gallery, New York; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; and Helsinki City Art
Museum, Finland. In 1997 Mendieta was the subject of a major retrospective organized by the Fundaci Antoni
Tpies, Barcelona, Spain.

Untitled (Chicken Piece, shot #2)


Ana Mendieta

1972, 2:57 min, color, silent


This is one of Mendieta's most visceral body-based works; it introduces the recurrent motifs of blood and
feathers. Standing naked against a white background, Mendieta watches as a white hen is decapitated. She
then holds the still writhing body as its blood covers her stomach and legs. The sacrifice of the chicken relates
to cult rituals of the artist's native Cuba.

Body Tracks (Blood Sign #2)


Ana Mendieta
1974, 1 min, color, sound
In Body Tracks, Mendieta stands, arms raised, with her back to the camera. Moving down the wall, she tracess
two blood streaks with her hands. This piece introduces the tree motif and trough form that re-occur in
Mendieta's work.

Available on

Untitled (Grass Breathing)


Ana Mendieta
1975, 3:08 min, color, silent
During a 1974 visit to Mexico, Mendieta began to produce a series of works in which her own body is immersed
or shrouded within the landscape. In Untitled (Grass Breathing), she is immersed in the grass-covered ground,
from which she emerges.

Mendieta's work expresses the pain and rupture of cultural displacement, and resonates with visceral
metaphors of death, rebirth, and spiritual transformation. In her ritualistic performances and haunting earth
works, she immerses or inscribes her own body within nature. Blood, fire, water, and other natural elements are
essential to her emblematic, often mystical female iconography. Burial and regeneration are recurrent themes.
Whether painting her body with blood, or burning, carving and inscribing female into the landscape, as in her
Silueta series, Mendieta's work is infused with enormous power and poetry.
Mendieta made more than seventy films and videotapes that document her ritualistic body performances and
"earth-body" sculptures.
Untitled is one of Mendieta's most visceral body-based works; it introduces the recurrent motifs of blood and
feathers. Standing naked against a white background, Mendieta watches as a white hen is decapitated. She

then holds the still writhing body as its blood covers her stomach and legs. The sacrifice of the chicken relates
to cult rituals of the artist's native Cuba.
In Body Tracks, Mendieta stands, arms raised, with her back to the camera. Moving down the wall, she tracess
two blood streaks with her hands. This piece introduces the tree motif and trough form that re-occur in
Mendieta's work.
During a 1974 visit to Mexico, Mendieta began to produce a series of body imprints (Siluetas) in the landscape,
as well as works in which her own body is immersed or shrouded within the landscape. In Untitled (Grass
Breathing), she is immersed in the landscape, from which she emerges.
Burial of the Nanigo documents an installation/exhibition. In the darkened gallery space the artist made a
silueta of herself from forty-seven candles. At the opening these were burned; for the remainder of the
exhibition the blackened remains sat on the floor. On an adjacent screen were projected images of other silueta
pieces. The word yigo refers to the use of birds in ritual magic. Here Mendieta places herself in the position of
the sacrificial offering, and so returns to the concerns of her earlier performance work. Candle Ixchell, Black
Ixchell Series is another example of her ritualistic body performance works.
In a series of Siluetas presented here, Mendieta inscribes her own form either directly into the landscape or
creates them out of rock or other natural elements. In some instances the female form is treated with
gunpowder and emit smoke and flames. This fusion of the artist's body with the earth not only had a deep ritual
symbolism, it also represented the artist's own attempt to explore her cultural identity, which reaches a climax
in the penultimate piece where Mendieta returns to the landscape of her native Cuba.