Ana Mendieta: One of the “10 Female Land Artists You Should Know”


Sarah Gottesman included the late Cuban artist Ana Mendieta in her Artsy editorial “10 Female Land Artists You Should Know.” Here are excerpts:

Fleeing the confines of studios, galleries, and museums, the Land Artists of the 1960s and ’70s turned the earth’s surface into their canvas. Suddenly, art could be dirt, stone, sand, and sky. It could vanish in the wind or permanently alter a landscape. It didn’t need to be bought or sold.

(Using the organic world as an artistic medium was nothing out of the ordinary to many non-Western cultures, of course—think of the geoglyphs in the Nazca desert, or “Nazca Lines,” in Peru—but within the context of Western art, it was groundbreaking.)

Ana Mendieta

Cuban-born Mendieta moved to the United States in 1961 at the age of 12, staying in refugee camps with her sister before relocating to Iowa. Mendieta’s father remained in Cuba as a political prisoner, and years of separation left the artist craving a deeper connection with the world around her.

This childhood trauma permeates her “Silueta (Silhouette)” series, produced between 1973 and 1980, in which the artist physically embedded her body into the landscape. For these “earth body” works, Mendieta would cover herself with blood, fire, flowers, and feathers, and push herself into the ground until she left her mark. Her flesh touched beaches, archaeological sites, and Mexican alcoves, among other locations, in radical gestures that combined shamanistic rituals, performance art, and the natural world.

Mendieta’s creative output is often overshadowed by her tragic death. On September 8, 1985, Mendieta fell from the 34th-floor window of her Greenwich Village apartment at the age of 35. Her husband, the Minimalist sculptor Carl Andre, was accused of murder and later acquitted of the charges. In recent years, the activist group WHEREISANAMENDIETA has emerged, protesting exhibitions that feature Andre’s works and raising awareness of domestic abuse.

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