POWERFUL, HAUNTING IMAGES
FEATURED IN ANA MENDIETA EXHIBIT
“Earth-body sculptures” of the late Ana Mendieta, an avant-garde artist who recalled her Cuban roots through visual references to Santeria, are featured in the current exhibition at ArtSpace/Virginia Miller Galleries in Coral Gables.
Mendieta’s powerful, haunting art melds the 1970’s concepts of earth art and body art with her ethnic heritage. On exhibit are 24 limited-edition color photographs of the artist’s “Silueta” works, which she termed earth-body sculpture, as well as a re-creation of one of her installations.
Created in Iowa and Mexico, the “Silueta” sculptures themselves are transitory, done with such materials as earth, flowers, leaves, fire or blood, so the documenting photographs are considered Mendieta’s art. She is considered a pioneer in environmental and performance art.
The installation was done by her sister, Raquelin Mendieta, who often collaborated with her. Comprised of an oval of living grass with the outline of the artist's body in dead leaves, the body-earth sculpture is part of Ana Mendieta's “silhouette” series. The series features images of the artist’s body, usually linked to Santeria’s orishas or saints of earth, fire, trees and water, preserved in limited-edition color photographs.
One beach sculpture consists of red bouganvillea blossoms in the shape of the artist’s body with arms raised. The incoming waves have washed away the lower part of the figure. For those familiar with Santeria, the symbolism is clear: Chango, a principal orisha, always is represented by the color red. His mistress is Yemayá, orisha of the ocean, whose frothy waves represent her lacy petticoats. Mendieta’s art shows Yemayá’s petticoats covering the legs of Chango, whose arms are raised in surprise or delight. Like the ocean, Yemayá represents both a loving and wrathful mother; they say you can take shelter from your enemies under her skirts, but if you provoke her anger, there is nowhere you can hide.
Other photos show the artist’s body outlined in fire, vines, stones—even the mud of a riverbank. One of the most reproduced works of the “Silueta” series shows Mendieta herself, nude and covered with mud and leaves, standing against the trunk of a large tree, her body blending in perfectly with its rough bark.