Friday, 29 November 2013

Ana Mendieta - Traces ♥

Ana Mendieta's post...Finally! I went to see her exhibition 'Traces' exactly a week ago but only today I managed to write about it. The thing is, this week has been "one of those weeks".

"One of those weeks" for me means too much planned and not enough sleep! My little boy constantly wakes during the night and my husband and I are even sleeping in different bedrooms with a view to crack down Cooper's sleeping habits very soon...we hope... In the meantime I'm not sleeping and during the day I cope as well as I can; trying to stay awake and control my patience which, unsurprisingly, runs very thin!

But this is not the only reason why this post has been delayed. The other reason is, I just didn't know where to start!

The truth is that I was utterly overwhelmed by the impossible amount of artwork I was presented with on Saturday and each and every one contained an incredible story behind it, delivering so much more than words can describe.

Mendieta has a huge life history. Born in Cuba in 1948 she grew up during the Cuban Revolution. In 1961, many children were evacuated to America during 'Operation Peter Pan' and Mendieta was sent to the USA by her family where she eventually studied art. She died in 1985 after falling from her 34th floor apartment in New York which she shared with her husband, the minimalist sculptor Carl Andre. A veil of mystery surrounds her death as neighbours are said to have heard the couple arguing violently on that morning. Andre was trialled for murder but there was insufficient evidence and he was released. The case was closed as a possible accident or suicide.

So back to the gallery - the exhibition seemed to be spilt in two parts and from what I could see there were two sides to Ana Mendieta emerging from it.

The first was undoubtedly my favourite. Her early works of body performances were so truthful and intense. She had such a huge range of issues that she needed to explore - genre stereotypes, abuse, murder, death, but also female identity, nature, continuation and freedom.

'Sweating blood' 1973 and 'Untitled (Glass on body Imprints) 1972

The body is always present in her work and she is not afraid of it. She bleeds, she squashes, she changes its form and shape and, at times, she buries it too.

'Body Tracks' 1974, 'The tree of life' 1977 and 'Imagen de Yagul', from the series 'Silueta' 1973 

In the first room you can see pictures from her 'Untitled (Facial hair transplant)'. In this work she takes hair from a friend's beard and glues it on to her own face. This was the first of her works I ever saw and I remember being blown away. I was about 15 years old. Why was I so fascinated by that image? If I look around now most 15 years old would think it weird or funny! I guess that I was a rebellious, go against the system(nightmare)teenager and that image spoke to me. It was the 'going against nature' concept that intrigued me. It was the break from genre stereotypes. It was controversial and I loved it.

'Untitled(Facial hair transplant)' 1972

In the second part of the exhibition the body is still very much present but not in a material way. It is outlined and its shape is imprinted in the ground, the stone or the wood, like a mark left in the earth after dying. 

She went back to her home country and in her work one can sometimes see her search for a home by looking into the earth itself. The earth is female and 'matriarchal' and in these works she merges her body with it, connecting, bonding, suggesting the enduring cycle of life. Here then is when her work suddenly changes, bringing the outside into her studio - the beginning of a new direction, brought to a premature end because of her sudden death.

Untitled (Guanaroca [First Woman]) and 'Mud and sand figures'

And at the end, just when you thought it was all over, there was a slide show of unedited photographs from Ana's personal archive.  Playing on big screens were behind the scenes documentation, drafts, sketchbooks, gallery submissions and artist statements along with personal items such as postcards and diaries, all adding another dimension to Ana as a person.

Mine and Ana Mendieta's notebooks 

I highly recommend you go and see this exhibition. It is on at the Hayward Gallery until December 15th. 

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