Reacquainting Myself with Ana Mendieta
Written by
Jane Hammons
June 2011
Written by
Jane Hammons
June 2011

I follow on Twitter and saw the tweet about their first book raffle on Facebook. I’m always up for the opportunity to win a free book, so I followed the link, and was excited to see that all I had to do was enter the name of a female artist overlooked by popular culture to enter the drawing for Who is Ana Mendieta? By Christine Redfern & Caro Caron.

I had an immediate association with the cover of the book. Caro Caron’s black and white drawing transported me back to the early 1970s when I was attending the University of New Mexico. The feminist movement was strong and active not only on campus but in the culture of Albuquerque. There were many venues for poetry readings, performance art, and display or installation of artwork. Feminist comic books were handed out or sold in parks, available in bookstores, and cafés. The air was thick with urgent political talk.

So while the larger topics of the book were readily available to me, I was dismayed to discover that I couldn’t answer the question asked in the title, though as I read more about Ana Mendieta, I did remember the story of her death. I’m grateful to this book for prodding me to learn more about someone whose contributions to feminist art and thought are so important.

This is, in part, the point of the book. It is not only the story of Mendieta and the movement she was central to, but the book is itself a visual presentation of issues related to the representation of women artists in our cultural memory and texts and also about how the bodies of women are used, represented, misrepresented, abused, ignored, etc. in works of art. There are also stories of volatile relationships between artists and how those are read by the media and various systems of justice. The futures and fortunes of male artists who kill and assault women, William Burroughs and Norman Mailer, perhaps most famously, are discussed along with that of Valerie Solanas  In addressing the question of whether or not Ana Mendieta was murdered by Carl Andre, the transcript of the 9-1-1 call Andre made as well as interviews and newspaper clippings are included.

The book is more documentary than accusation or an attempt to “solve” a crime. It is an invitation to investigate, reflect on and rethink Ana Mendieta’s life in the larger context of this important time and to also consider the work of others who contributed to it and, in the case of some, continue to do so: Hannah Wilke, Yayoi Kusama, Carolee Schhneemann, and Shigeko Kbota, just to name a few.  There is a lot of humor and warmth in this book as well. It is, in fact, a very organic text—it is what it is about.

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