Ana Mendieta (1948–1985) was a Cuban-American performance artist, sculptor, and filmmaker who was involved in the New York feminist art community in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1961, when she was twelve, her parents sent her to the United States to escape Castro’s Communist regime in Cuba. Later, Mendieta attended the University of Iowa, where she earned a BA, an MA in Painting, and an MFA in Intermedia.
Mendieta is best known for her body-focused earth art. She created temporary figurative sculptures in nature whose appearance is reminiscent of prehistoric petroglyphs. She also took photos of herself in nature, becoming taken over by nature, transforming her own body into an ancient goddess figure, such as the Venuses of Willendorf, Galgenberg, and Dolni Vestonice. In other pieces, she captured herself close up in various ways to explore identity, appearance, gender.
Ana Mendieta is also known for being killed by her husband, the American Minimal artist Carl Andre, who was sentenced (and later acquitted) for pushing her out of a New York high-rise window. She has become a symbol for the ill treatment of female artists in the patriarchal art establishment. But, alternatively, she is a symbol for the indestructibility of womens’ spirits, and for the kind of powerful creativity that only women possess—a creativity, often, of the senses, the body, and the emotions.
My head smashed when I was Ana Mendieta, who fell or got pushed out of a window in New York in my underclothes when I was drunk in 1985, and I landed there on the delicatessen roof. I got pushed or fell, by my husband, the Minimalist Carl Andre, who used the city as a weapon—looked into its eyes and saw a kindred spirit. He believed in hardness and violence and he believed in pushing people out of windows. He believed in pushing a lover out of a thirty-five-story building so that I would land at sixty miles per hour against a hard, thudding surface….