Object Image

Anima (Alma/Soul)

For these works, Mendieta used fireworks to set wooden effigies of her outline ablaze in a clearing in Oaxaca, Mexico. The flames light up the night sky, asserting her presence and power, before the figures collapse into a pile of ash. Leaving only photographic and film evidence behind, this feminist approach to earth art acknowledges human transience in the face of ecological time.

Using her body and natural materials, Mendieta created unforgettable yet fleeting interventions in sites from Iowa to Mexico to Cuba. Her best known series, Silueta, depicts her nude body or traced silhouette in natural environments, evoking ancient goddesses, fertility symbols and rituals borrowed from Catholicism, Caribbean santería, and pre-Columbian indigenous cultures around the world. Mendieta came to the United States in 1961 as part of wave of unaccompanied child refugees transported from Cuba by the Catholic Church. Mendieta spent her high school, college, and graduate school years in Iowa and her art continually addresses dislocation from and reconnection to the land.

Credit: Museum purchase through the Smithsonian Latino Initiatives Pool and the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program

1976, printed 1977
Chromogenic print
34.3 x 50.8cm
1995.54.1.4
Text: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2023
Image: 1976, Estate of Ana Mendieta

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