Ana Mendieta-ritualistic earth artist



This is the first  in a series of posts about women photographers who have used their own bodies as the primary vessels for their artistic expression. The articles will explore what motivated these women to step beyond cultural expectations of the feminine and use self-portraiture to examine identity and relationship through the camera lens. I am very excited to share these brave and brilliant women with you as I give my respect and gratitude to them for leading the way for my own process of discovery.

Ana Mendieta- ritualistic earth artist

Ana Mendieta was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948 and at the age of 12 was sent into exile in the Unites States. This removal from her homeland became the catalyst for her work, her attempt to find a sense of belonging through merging with the natural world-“using the earth as my canvas and my soul as my tools.” [ Michael Duncan]

Her most famous works are her “Silueta” Series {silhouette in Spanish} begun in Iowa as a student. She would carve the shape of her body into the earth, using a variety of materials to highlight the form including flowers, stones, gunpowder, tree branches, and fire, leaving haunting feminine figures etched into the landscape.

An important influence on her development was the Afro-Cuban and Santeria ritualistic traditions she was exposed to as a child. The ceremonial nature of her work reveal her desire to touch something deeper, “The turning point was when I realized that my paintings were not real enough for what I wanted to convey, I wanted my images to have power, to be magic.”

She is one of my elders, one who walked before me redefining what a woman artist could explore, unraveling her own questions about self-identity, cultural belonging, and the elemental nature of our connection to the land. Interestingly, I did not consciously remember her work when I began my own Earthen Body series. I grew up in a family of artists, so I may have been exposed to her, but I did not recall them as an influence. I learned of her “Earth Body” series after I had chosen Earthen Body as title for my book.

Ana’s life ended tragically at the age of 36 by falling from her NYC apartment window. Her husband, the minimalist sculptor Carl Andre was tried for her murder, but was later acquitted. Did she pay a high price for being a maverick at a time when women were just emerging into their own power? She remains a potent role model for the universal search for belonging and integration through exploring our timeless connection to the earth.

3 Replies to “Ana Mendieta-ritualistic earth artist”

  1. I liked looking through your website, it seems you are similarly interested in putting your body into nature, do you consider it body-art? I did write the paper but I’m sure it is really not that spectacular. Just used alot of different sources and compiled a very basic idea. But I will post a blog with the paper. GIve it a read, maybe I mentioned something new haha. Thanks for the reply.


  2. Hey thanks for writing a great commentary on Ana Mendieta. I’m currently writing a paper on her and your blog was helpful. Also keep up the great work on writing about women artists and photographers, something I want to get into as well.


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