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Untitled, from the Silueta series

1980 Ana Mendieta Born: Havana, Cuba 1948 Died: New York, New York 1985 gelatin silver print sight 38 3/4 x 52 1/2 in. (98.4 x 133.4 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase through the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Pool and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program © 1980, Estate of Ana Mendieta 1995.54.2 Not currently on view


Exhibition Label

Mendieta’s Silueta series, produced between 1973 and 1980, explores the connections between nature and the female body. This photograph documents an ephemeral sculpture – in the shape of the artist’s silhouette and loosely evocative of ancient goddess archetypes – carved directly into the earth with minimal disruption of the environment. Mendieta’s Siluetas signify a return to a metaphorical womb and her native Cuban homeland as she molded a feminist subject and land art processes to explore the theme of exile.

Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, 2013

Gallery Label

This photograph documents one of the last of the siluetas, or "silhouettes," Mendieta created on an expedition into the eroded streambeds of Iowa. Her earth art borrowed from Catholicism, Caribbean santeriá, and pre-columbian rituals to make images of healing and eternal life-forces. She etched into the exposed earth a primal figure of a woman, giving a literal truth to the santeriá idea of monte adentro, or "going back to the roots." She chose this spot to suggest an ancient devotional gesture newly revealed by nature's cycles.

Mendieta used wooden effigies, silhouettes cut into the earth, and often her own body half-buried in the soil to forge a unity between herself and the land. She was the daughter of an early supporter of Fidel Castro who had fallen out of favor and been imprisoned. Her family fled Cuba for the United States in 1961, and the siluetas address Mendieta's feelings of loss and exile.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Landscape - Mexico - Oaxaca

Landscape - mountain - Mountain of San Felipe

Modern art movement - installation exterior - Mexico

photography - photoprint

gelatin silver