Connecting to the Earth
09 February–30 March 201909 Feb–30 Mar 2019
“I have been carrying out a dialogue between the landscape and the female body (based on my own silhouette). I believe this has been a direct result of my having been torn from my homeland (Cuba) during my adolescence. I am overwhelmed by the feeling of having been cast from the womb (nature). My art is the way I re-establish the bonds that unite me to the universe. It is a return to the maternal source.”—Ana Mendieta
This exhibition, curated by Susan Best, brings together two series by Ana Mendieta that are about connection to land: the Silueta series and the Rupestrian Sculptures series. The two series powerfully demonstrate Mendieta’s idea of feminised nature. Using this ancient idea enabled her to posit alternatives to patriarchal culture in the name of the feminine, including: an ecological sensibility that emphasises the reciprocity between body and land, and a resistance to colonialist conceptions of land and territory.
These two series also combine the ancient practice of drawing in and on nature, and the modern distancing technology of film and photography. The film Corazón de Roca con Sangre [Rock Heart with Blood] most explicitly presents her idea of an emotional bond with the earth. With spare untheatrical gestures, Mendieta pours red pigment over a heart shape set in the chest area of a recessed ash silhouette. The film ends when she places her body face down directly into the silhouette. The silhouette is thus revealed as an intimate embrace of the earth.
- Susan Best
Ana Mendieta was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948, and died in 1985 in New York. In 1961, she was sent by her parents (along with her older sister Raquelin) to live in the United States. She studied at the University of Iowa, participating in the intermedia classes run by Hans Breder, which exposed her to the cutting-edge art practices of the time. Her works range across photography, film, and sculpture. Central to her practice is a critique of colonialist attitudes to nature, a concern with exile, displacement and belonging, as well as a deep interest in ancient cultures.
Susan Best is Professor of Art History and Theory at Griffith University. She is the author of Visualizing Feeling: Affect and the Feminine Avant-garde (2011), and Reparative Aesthetics: Witnessing in Contemporary Art Photography (2016); both won the Australian and New Zealand Art Association prize for best book. Visualizing Feeling discusses the work of Mendieta as introducing an affective dimension to late modern art.