Artist of the Week- Ana Mendieta

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Ana Mendieta was Born November 18th 1948.  Originally she is from Havana, Cuba but by age 12 she was sent to the United States by her parents. She was a performance artist, sculptor, painter and video artist.  She likes to incorporate the four basic elements into her work.  Through this she is able to focus on the spiritual an physical connection human beings have with the earth.  She incorporates themes such as feminism, life, death, violence and place and belonging.

ana-mendieta-earth-work-2 Art Installation Tree of Life by Cuban Ana Mendieta

Mendieta arrived in the United States as a refugee in 1961 to escape Fidel Castro’s  communist regime.  This experience definitely inspired her work.  Mendieta did not identify with a particular homeland.  No longer could she go back to Cuba and in America she was seen as an outsider.  In her silueta series she travels to different sites and uses the earth along with her body to present her issues of not belonging to a particular place.  It is inspiring to know that she came to America with nothing but was able to build herself up, put herself through school and leave behind such an impact in the art world.

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I read a lot of comments that people think her art is creepy and weird but I think it is edgy and extremely interesting.  I think her “earth-body” art is inspiring.  It is different and not like anything I have seen before.  It really catches the eye and makes you think.  Each photograph I looked at made me want to figure out the meaning behind it.  In her performance pieces she sometimes uses blood to represent the power of female sexuality and the horror of the sexual violence against women.  I really enjoy her work that includes these themes because it is still such a struggle for women, especially women of color to exist in our world.  She was fighting the norms and the issues regarding gender.  Being alive when she was, I can imagine the discrimination she had to face on a day to day basis.

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This series of photographs is from a video of Ana using blood to paint out, “there is a devil inside me”.  At first glance this seems like something out of a horror movie.  My first interpretation of this piece was that there was a darkness in her and she can’t fight it.  Upon reading up on it, I found that it means much more than that.  Since Mendieta was Cuban she was often seen as an “erotic being”, aggressive and sort of evil.  She uses the blood as a motif for the expurgation of impurity.  I think this video art represents themes of violence as well as  the theme of place and belonging.  She is living in a place where she is seen as something she is not and by writing “there is a devil in side me”  she is purging herself of that negativity by exploiting it in art for everyone to see.

Ana Mendieta died September 8th, 1985.  She died young at only 36.  She “went out of the window” falling 34 floors from her apartment.  Her husband, Carl Andre made the 911 call as well as said she may have committed suicide.  Apparently Mendieta had an acute fear of heights so many thought this was an unlikely story.  Instead there is speculation that Andre threw her out of the window.  When police arrived at the scene the couples bedroom was a mess and Andre had scratch marks on his arms.  No one will ever be certain of what happened that night but I think that Andre murdered her.  To me it makes no sense that she would just jump to her death, she was successful, happy and her work was getting noticed.

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