Created mainly outdoors (on the US East Coast, in Iowa, Indiana, Canada, Mexico and Cuba), the works of Ana Mendieta are all about the relation to the earth, the body and time. The artist was exiled from her native Cuba at a young age and brought up far from her parents in Iowa. In the course of her short career this double heritage helped her produce work that stands at the intersection of conceptual art, Land art and performance art, while showing a marked interest in pre-Columbian cultures and prehistoric art.
Fundamento Palo Monte belongs to the Siluetas, a series of ephemeral works that the artist made between 1973 and 1981 and then recorded on film or in photographs. In the first Siluetas, the artist’s body is still visible, while in later works only traces remain. Mendieta imprinted her body into the earth to create forms that recall stylised Neolithic statuary but also, by the material used, arte povera. Whether temporarily occupied by the artist’s body, filled with organic materials like blood or ashes, or in a state of combustion, these Siluetas set up a dialectic between presence and absence, plenitude and lack, past and present.
Made in Iowa, Fundamento Palo Monte shows a form hollowed from the ground and filled with white gunpowder, with three stones in the position of the heart. The fire consumes the silhouette from the base to the head. At times, the flames and thick white smoke obscure the form in the ground, which then reappears through the thinning wisps of smoke as the powder burns out. What remains is the charred figure, the work of earth, fire and air. The time of combustion and the time of the film are one.
Covered in Time and History: The Films of Ana Mendieta, exh. cat. Minneapolis, Katherine E. Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota, Fort Lauderdale, NSU Art Museum, Berkeley, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Oakland, University of Calfornia Press, 2015.
Julia Bryan-Wilson, Adrian Heathfield and Stephanie Rosenthal, Ana Mendieta: Traces, Londres, Hayward Publishing, 2013.
Beatrice Merz, Olga Gambari and Linda M. Montano, Ana Mendieta. She Got Love, exh. cat. Turin, Castello di Rivoli, Milan, Skira, 2013.