Smith College Museum of Art to Exhibit the Work of Ana Mendieta

As part of the Smith College Museum of Art’s current Art of Latin America series, the exhibition Beyond the Performance: Ana Mendieta in the 1970s will be on view from August 27th through October 23rd. The exhibition will display images documenting the Cuban-American artist’s performance work from her Silueta series, featuring photographs from the museum’s collection and a loan that includes photographs, films, and drawings from the Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, courtesy of Galerie Lelong, New York.

Expanding upon the visceral, body-oriented performance work that marked her oeuvre as a student at the University of Iowa, Mendieta combined multiple artistic genres for Silueta, making the project one of the most critically-acclaimed works of her career. In this series, which took place in Mexico and Iowa between 1973 and 1980, Mendieta created sculptural outlines (silhouettes) of the female form in the earth, oftentimes using her naked body, and documenting the images using photography and video. The works were then left to the elements, disappearing over time.

Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) was born in Havana, but came to the United States with her sister in 1961, shortly after Fidel Castro came into power. Despite the plan to be reunited with their parents shortly after immigration, Mendieta’s father was unexpectedly imprisoned for political reasons, leading the two girls to be shuffled around various foster homes and orphanages in Iowa the rest of their childhood. Mendieta’s relationship to Cuba and the United States has been a major factor in the way critics have viewed and understood her work. This is especially true of her Silueta series, which is often thought of as an expression of exile, articulated through a desire to reconnect to the earth she lost.

The 2005 Art of Latin America exhibition series is the latest effort by the Smith College Museum of Art to display works from outside its collection, which is particularly strong in art from Europe and the United States. Also included within the series is the permanent reinstallation of Rufino Tamayo’s monumental mural, Nature and the Artist: The Work of Art and the Observer, now on display in the Atrium of the Museum; Latin American Graphics: The Evolution of Identity from the Mythical to the Personal, on exhibit into June; and Now It Has Stopped Raining (Ya dejó de llover), an exhibition of paintings by the Puerto Rican-born, Northampton-residing artist Rosa Ibarra, on view this November.