Ana Mendieta


"X-ray" by Ana Mendieta. A person is seen in front of a screen. On it is shown a circular X-ray image
Ana Mendieta
ca. 1975
Medium / Material / Technic
16 mm film transferred to video, b/w, sound, 01:36 min., looped

The Cuban artist Ana Mendieta is known especially for her “Earth-body works,” ritually motivated works performed in private and on camera. In these works, Mendieta covered her naked body with flowers and soil, outlined her silhouette using rocks, grasses, and vines, or exposed herself to the elements.

The radiographic film X-ray utilizes a slightly different strategy. It shows Mendieta’s skull from various angles, while she repeats the same meaningless series of vowels and consonants over and over again. Fluoroscopy, the continuous recording and viewing of an x-ray image, was commonly used in medicine to diagnose speech disorders.

Transferring this medical imagery into the context of art evokes various associations. It is an obvious continuation of the tradition of self-portraiture, although the x-ray images undermine the usual paradigm of resemblance. The usual portrayal of character, emotion, and other meaningful attributes is missing. Mendieta shows herself, while also disappearing from view. The technology enables a procedure that was equally definitive of her “Earth-body works.” The artist understood her dissolution in a medium as a continuation of mystical practice, which is also expressed in her glossolalia (speaking in tongues). As such, it should come as no surprise that Mendieta called herself a “neolithic shaman” – a visionary with a firm commitment to the earth and its flora.

Courtesy of The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC; Galerie Lelong & Co.