Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) was a "brown-skinned, female, immigrant
artist," sent from Cuba to the USA at the age of 12, by her
politically prominent parents, as part of the United
States-assisted Operation Peter Pan, to escape Fidel Castro's
regime. The trauma of this forced exile, and the ensuing years of
mistreatment in a group home for disturbed children, three foster
homes, and boarding school, informed much of her later artistic
Using her own body as her medium, and investigating issues of
power, longing, nature, and the transience of life, Mendieta was a
pioneer of video art, producing close to 80 films in her short
career, and creating numerous ephemeral performances and
sculptures, often auto-destructing, and documented only via slides,
photographs, prints, and artist's books. Often harrowing to the
viewer, she would re-enact scenes of rape and violence, or burn,
explode, or trace the shape of her body, hersilueta, with blood
into the natural landscape.
In 1985, she married the Minimalist sculptor Carl Andre (whose
bricks, Equivalent VIII, 1966, are in Tate Modern), and, less than
eight months later, after a tempestuous relationship charged by her
growing success, and on the night when she wanted to confront him
with evidence of his affair, which she wished to use against him in
a case for divorce, she fell to her death from the 34th storey
window of his Greenwich Village apartment. Andre was charged with
her murder, but later acquitted, after the third trial.
On the request of his lawyer, the records were permanently
sealed. In the eyes of many, however, the matter was never
satisfactorily closed: "I see her death as part of some larger
denial of the feminine," said artist Carolee Schneemann.
"Like a huge metaphor saying, we don't want this depth of
feminine eroticism, nature, absorption, integration to happen. It's
too organic. It's too sacral. In a way, her death also has a
symbolic trajectory. More than Ana dies, when she dies."
"Nothing in this world happens by itself, everything is linked,
and that is the message Mendieta was exploring with her art,"
writes Christine Redfern, one of the two creators of the graphic
novel, Who is Ana Mendieta?, published by The Feminist Press in
The twenty pages of this book, along with three silkscreen
prints, are currently on display at Space Station Sixty-Five, in an
exhibition of the same title. The pages summarise the story of
Mendieta's life and death, setting it in the context of the
feminist art movement.
The black and white drawings, by Caro Caron, bring the events to
life, and, in the words of Redfern, "[confront] the void into which
her work, like the work of so many other women, has fallen."
Ephemeral as her works may have been, and short and tragic her
life, Mendieta's legacy is not a flame which will easily be
Space Station Sixty-Five
Until 4 November 2012
Who is Ana Mendieta?
All rights reserved.
All images © Space Station Sixty-Five and
Christine Redfern & Caro Caron