'untitled' facial hair transplants, 1972
Mendieta's powerful and haunting images combine's the 1970's concepts of earth art and body art with her ethnic heritage. Theses pictures are her 'Silueta' works. Created in Iowa and Mexico, the 'Silueta' sculptures themselves are transitory, done with such materials as earth, flowers, leaves, fire or blood, so the documenting photographs are considered Mendieta’s art. She is considered a pioneer in environmental and performance art.
One beach sculpture (above), consists of red bouganvillea blossoms in the shape of the artist’s body with arms raised. The incoming waves have washed away the lower part of the figure. For those familiar with Santeria, the symbolism is clear: Chango, a principal orisha, always is represented by the color red. His mistress is Yemayá, orisha of the ocean, whose frothy waves represent her lacy petticoats. Mendieta’s art shows Yemayá’s petticoats covering the legs of Chango, whose arms are raised in surprise or delight. Like the ocean, Yemayá represents both a loving and wrathful mother; they say you can take shelter from your enemies under her skirts, but if you provoke her anger, there is nowhere you can hide.
Other photos show the artist’s body outlined in fire, vines, stones—even the mud of a riverbank. One of the most reproduced works of the “Silueta” series shows Mendieta herself, nude and covered with mud and leaves, standing against the trunk of a large tree, her body blending in perfectly with its rough bark. (left)
Mendieta was only 13 when she and her sister were taken to the Havana airport by their parents and bundled off on a plane bound for Miami, two of the thousands of youngsters who escaped the Castro regime under Operation Pedro Pan. Writing about her “Silueta” series in 1981, Mendieta stated that she has been “carrying on a dialogue between the landscape and the female body (based on my own silhouette). I believe this has been a direct result of my having been torn from my homeland during my adolescence.”
I was introduced to her via our Art History lecture today, according to our lecturer, who showed us the beach image above, she was saposed to be picturing her own death, but after doing my own research, I dont believe that to be entierly true.