Artist

Ana Mendieta

born Havana, Cuba 1948-died New York City 1985
Born
Havana, Cuba
Died
New York, New York, United States
Nationalities
  • American
Biography

Sculptor, performance and conceptual artist, born in Havana, Cuba. Mendieta came to the United States in 1961 and spent her adolescence in Iowa. The trauma of dislocation from her family and homeland is a recurrent theme in her work. Mendieta died from injuries sustained in a tragic fall from a window in her New York City apartment building at the age of 37.

Latino Art and Culture Bilingual Study Guide (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1996)

Artist Biography

Ana Mendieta was a sculptor, and a performance and conceptual artist. She was born in Havana, Cuba, and came to the United States in 1961, when many Cubans were fleeing Fidel Castro's regime. Mendieta and her sisters were raised in different orphanages and foster homes in Iowa. Although she eventually studied at the Center for the New Performing Arts at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, she always considered herself an artist in exile.

Mendieta often used her body as a template for silhouettes shaped in mud. Carving directly into the clay bed, she reestablished connections with her ancestors and ancestral land. This female contour inscribed in the earth recalls earth goddesses of ancient cultures, reflecting Mendieta's feminist stance. The art of carving provided Mendieta with a link to the past, a renewed sense of power in the present, and a bond to the timeless universe. As she remarked poetically, "I have thrown myself into the very elements that produced me, using the earth as my canvas and my soul as my tools." She made this photograph as a record of her ephemeral sculpture.

Jonathan Yorba Arte Latino: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum (New York and Washington, D.C.: Watson-Guptill Publications, in cooperation with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2001)

Exhibitions

Media - 2011.12 - SAAM-2011.12_1 - 77591
Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art
October 24, 2013March 2, 2014
Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art presents the rich and varied contributions of Latino artists in the United States since the mid-twentieth century, when the concept of a collective Latino identity began to emerge. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s pioneering collection of Latino art. It explores how Latino artists shaped the artistic movements of their day and recalibrated key themes in American art and culture.

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