Ana Mendieta -Traces

Hayward Gallery

October 2013
London, United Kingdom

How we see the world is limited by the bodies we are born in and thus our perspective on reality is determined by our sex. It is inescapable then to not see the world through our body. It is this take on essentialism that brought Ana Mendieta to use her body not only as the subject of her work but also the object of her work.

In her early work you see her transforming/distorting her body with mirrors , facial hair, makeup, wadding in her mouth and nose or in the case of Blood and Feathers 1974  sticking feathers to her naked body using blood. Showing us her transmutation and metamorphosis.

In response to the brutal murder of a student in 1973 she began a series of works aimed at bringing attention to violence against women. Her blood works such as Portraits of Blood 1973 continued highlighting the issue of this violence. She connected it to her past and the ritualistic acts practiced in Cuba as well as to her Roman Catholic upbringing as you can see in her works Portraits of Blood 1973 and Blood and Feathers 1974


Ana Mendieta is most famous for a series of around one hundred works Siluetas 1973-1981. In this work inspired from her time in Mexico and the reminder of her roots in Cuba she no longer always used her body as the medium but it was still always the subject. In this new way of working she left decaying sculptors on the landscape that eventually would be reclaimed by nature meaning documentation was the only permanent way of capturing the experiences she had.

She used multiple ways to do document her work such as slides, film, photography in black and white and colour. When presenting her work such as her Siluetas 1973-1981 she wanted simple photographs to encourage the viewer to think about the experience she had outside in the landscape. She wanted to trigger speculation by the viewer and hopefully alter the way they see the world and are aware of it.

Looking at Ana Mendieta’s work made me interested in the inescapability of essentialism. I started to think about my work as a balance of subject and self. I can’t escape my essential qualities such as being a white Irish middle class male so I must be aware how this will influence how I interact and chose my subject. Denying this would be ignorant of who I am and what I want to say with my art.

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