In episode 67 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews the filmmaker Raquel Cecilia Mendieta on her aunt, one of the greatest artists ever to live: Ana Mendieta.
The day of this episode's release: 8 September 2021, is the 36th anniversary of Ana's death, who died aged 36 in 1985.
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"I use the earth as a canvas and my soul as an instrument."
A pioneer of Performance Art who used the body as her primary tool, Mendieta’s career was radically experimental. Born in pre-revolutionHavana, Cuba, Mendieta’s life changed when Castro came to power, and her father(an enemy of the new regime) was imprisoned. Exiled from Cuba and sent toAmerica – arriving in Florida then settling in Iowa, aged 12 – Mendieta remained separated from her parents and birth country for years.
Enrolling in the University of Iowa, it was here where she thrived. First experimenting with painting, Mendieta went on to employ the body as her primary medium. Constructing her 'Facial Cosmetic Variations' and 'Facial Hair Transplants', she pioneered the use of props and prosthetics as 'acts of transformations'. But being "possessed by nature", by 1973, she was exploring her siluetas.
Interrogating themes of memory, history, displacement, and rebirth, Mendieta used her body as her instrument when conducting more than 200 performative and ephemeral ‘sculptures’ (which she called siluetas). Through methods of burning, carving, or planting, Mendieta sought to ‘become one with the earth’, moulding the outlines of her body onto the soil of Iowa, Mexico, and from 1980, Cuba.
In this episode we discuss the pure POWER of Mendieta's work, her connection to the Earth, life in Iowa and NYC and her later career at the American Academy in Rome. Ana was a true pioneer. And speaking to the fantastic Raquel, who has made many beautiful films on her aunt, we get an insight into who she was, her rebellious spirit, love and care for those around her, and pure excitement for her life and work.
LISTEN NOW + ENJOY!!!
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
Research assistant: Viva Ruggi
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield