BAMPFA Features Little-Known Films by Ana Mendieta

Her films will be shown through Feb. 12.


A still from "Creek" (1974), a Super 8 film by Ana Mendieta.

Ana Mendieta is known for her primal, ritualistic performances, installations, and photographs exploring the mystical relationship between woman, the landscape, the elements, and the cycles of birth and death.

Since her death in 1985 at the age of 36—some say at the hands of her husband, the Minimalist sculptor, Carl Andre (who was acquitted of the murder charge)—the Havana-born artist also has become something of an icon to feminist artists, like her kindred spirit, the Mexican Surrealist painter, Frida Kahlo: in life, a victim of male dominance and exploitation (although both were strong-willed); on the symbolic/aesthetic plane of art, triumphantly victorious. The museum press release praises her trail-blazing cross-disciplinary explorations of “the existential dilemmas of the modern era: the experience of displacement; the loss of continuity with one’s individual and collective past; the pressures to conform and assimilate in a foreign environment, language, and value system.”

During her brief 14-year career, Mendieta made more than 100 films as well, serving as director, cinematographer, and cast. Twenty-one of these silent 8-mm films are presented in Covered in Time and History, its title taken from the artist’s description of an early artwork in which she lay within an Aztec grave, buried in weeds and grasses. In 1981, Mendieta spoke of her 1970s Silueta series of works, reducing the silhouette of her naked body to a kind of ideogram made of natural elements (soil, sand, mud, twigs, leaves, fire), and influenced by the Santeria religion of her native Cuba: “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.”

Among the films to be shown are Sweating Blood (1973), Creek (1974), Anima, Silhueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece) (1976), Volcán (1979), and Esculturas Ruperstres (Rupestrian Sculptures) (1981). Covered in Time and History runs Nov. 9-Feb. 12, 2017; Berkeley Art Museum, 2155 Center St., Berkeley, 510-642-0808;


This report was published in the December edition of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

Published online on Dec. 2, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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