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)