Ana Mendieta's artistic career, cut short by her premature death in 1985, produced a diverse body of works that were a fusion of sculpture land art and performance. Through diverse media she explored how human beings relate to our surroundings.Read More
Death of a Chicken
Mendieta's early work includes Death of a Chicken (1972), referencing the obscenity of the world as she experienced it. Performed at the University of Iowa, the performance represented an early instance of Mendieta's use of blood as a medium.
A year later, Mendieta responded to the rape and murder of a fellow student in Rape Scene, which saw her conduct a private performance in which she posed in her apartment as the victim of a sexual assault. The artwork tackled themes of masculine aggression and the oppression of the female body—themes that are present in the subsequent Moffitt Building Piece (1973), which also referenced the crime.
In Moffitt Building Piece, Ana Mendieta's sister hid in a parking lot and filmed the doorway to the artist's Iowa City apartment, where she had placed blood and other ephemera outside the front door. In the film streams of people walk by, taking notice of the blood and moving on.
Ana Mendieta's films were shot primarily with a Bolex Super 8 camera. She shot nearly 100 videos between 1973 and 1981, using the format to document her works, including her famous 'Silueta' series (1973–1980). Mendieta's 'Siluetas' were staged in Iowa and Mexico, where, in her fascination for Central American and Caribbean religious iconography, she frequented pre-Columbian ruins.
Carving the shape of her body into the earth or assembling natural materials into her form, Mendieta's ephemeral creations live on through her films and photographs. Different bodily configurations signaled different symbolisms—for example, by raising her arms, Mendieta referenced the merging of earth and sky.
Ana Mendieta's 'earth-body' works, as she called them, took on more direct reference to ancient goddesses in 1978, when she carved their forms into rock, sand, or clay beds, including a series created in limestone grottos in Cuba, where she returned in 1981. Her sister would later made the film Whispering Cave (2018), as she attempted to trace these sculptures in Jaruco, Cuba.
Tree of Life
Of her 'Siluetas', Ana Mendieta's 'Tree of Life' series saw the artist pose—covered head to foot in mud—against trees. 'Tree of Life', along with other photographs and moving image works, drawings, sculptures, and notebooks featured in the artist's first United Kingdom retrospective at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2013, titled Traces.