“The obsessive act of reasserting my ties with the Earth is an objectification of my existence.” Studies in displacement: a spotlight on performance artist, sculptor, painter and video artist Ana Mendieta who’s work revolves around the body, nature, and the spiritual connections between them.
Any and every experience shapes us to be who we are, but what if one of the earliest experiences in discovering yourself came with fleeing from a dictatorship? At the wide-eyed age of 12, Ana Mendieta and her sister escaped Cuba and Fidel Castro’s dictatorship in the 1960s due to the government-sponsored Peter Pan operation. They were sent to America knowing little English accompanied by the absence of a home, a family, and a warmth of belonging. A flourishing curiosity in art over the new sudden environments would be a new-found way in coping. Her presence in the art world would soon be exhibited in performance, feminist, and land art movements. Though her earlier creations consisted mainly of paintings, it was not until her later years and a grim event of an on-campus rape that her work there-after would become most potent. Rape Piece (1972) consisted of Mendieta covering herself in blood and lying face down on the floor. She then invited numerous unsuspecting students and campus staff to “stumble upon” the scene. From this, she joins other artists such as Marina Abramovic and Carolee Schneemann in the use of her body in protest against sexual violence. She connected with the movement of feminist art most and the expression of gender fluidity; the work in this would include the manipulation of her own body parts to forbid anatomical identification. The steady use of organic materials such as blood, flowers, and fire in her work reflect passions of religious ritual said to be inspired by Santeria, the strain of Cuban Catholicism. Sadly, the skilled artists life was cut radically short after a tragic fall from the 34th floor of her New York City apartment where she resided with her husband, sculptor Carl Andre. To this day, there is still controversy surrounding her death though Andre has been acquitted..
Words: Maylyn Bertorelli / @twiggymay