Not Oprah’s Book Club: Unseen Mendieta

Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) was a groundbreaking, Cuban-American visual artist who tackled issues of body image, identity politics, and gender with unparalleled ingenuity and immediacy. The new book, out on Prestel, of her too short-lived career is totally riveting–from the tracks made by the artist dragging her blood-covered arms down a wall to the pigment-filled void of her silhouette pressed into a sandy beach. The images speak for themselves:

For an “oh scary f-word” review of Mendiata’s work, check out this Washington Post piece from awhile back. Despite being generally disappointing, I did think these lines were fascinating:

Mendieta wants to assert the possibility of a female presence in the world, but that means also insisting that the “feminine” can include the kind of macho, ego-boosting gesture that has been the preserve of male artists. If there’s no choice but to spell it out in old symbolic archetypes — and that is just how art has almost always spelled things out — the vagina has to be allowed to have its phallic side.

Bottom line: check out Mendieta’s work if you haven’t. It’s got all sorts of room for interpretation and transformation.

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  • kurd55


  • TinkTheTank

    I peeked at the wikipedia article on her. I guess she was found dead in her apartment and her new husband was tried and acquitted for murder. I realize he’s innocent until proven guilty, but District Attorneys don’t press charges on domestic murders unless its a pretty tight case, especially in ’85. Of course, the article has nothing on whether or not her husband was abusive.
    Its interesting for me as a domestic violence advocate to see abusers harming feminists. In Lawrence, KS, where I live, we just had an activist who was killed by her boyfriend. She even helped organize Take Back the Night some years ago. I guess it surprized me because of all the education that occurs, and that as feminists, we KNOW about gendered violence. And that knowing, in my mind, became a shield protecting us from violence.
    Which certainly isn’t the case.
    On another note, her artwork is beautiful. I really think that the silhouette of her body in the sand is exceptional. I am curious how she preserved it while getting up!

  • Ravencomeslaughing

    It looks fascinating and the images are compelling. I do have to note from an artistic standpoint, her arms aren’t bloody in that photo. In fact, her hands have wiped away that red paint or stain on the wall, which looks a lot like a Pompeii red glaze, actually. But yes, the image in the sand is beautifully done.

  • manifestadestiny

    Yes, Blake was a wee-bit too interested in undercutting feminism.
    “The pseudo-anthropology of Carlos Castaneda was a favorite source, along with the so-called “central” (read “vaginal”) ideology of early feminism, with its mumbo-jumbo about earth goddesses and a mythic, rosy past when women ruled the world and men were not yet sexist brutes.”
    If this guy had read “When God was a Woman,” I don’t think he would have called it a “rosy” past. Mumbo-Jumbo–dismiss much?
    “No matter how powerful and full of meaning a great artwork turns out be once it’s complete, it starts life as some dumb human simply doing something for the sake of doing it.”
    Did he have to add “dumb” in there? He’s like, “Anyone can do this crap.” He is really interested in reducing the artist in a very disturbing way. I don’t like him.

  • Deva

    These are mysteries of the world of ancient times.