For my final project of the Art History course I’m taking, I have to put together an exhibition of Contemporary Artists – including myself. It’s a way to link your own work into the framework of art in our modern era. I have to include ten artists in total, so over the next week I will present pairs of artists I plan to include in this fantasy exhibition. The first two artists that came to mind were Ana Mendieta and Francesca Woodman.
I’ve loved both of these artists for a long time now. They use the female body – primarily their own body – as metaphor and way to explore ideas of identity and history. They are interested in the way their bodies occupy space and their work has a strong psychological element with how the body is transformed to blur and blend into the environment. There are strong religious undertones in each artist’s work as well. In her Silueta series, Mendieta explores isolation and displacement by creating impressions of her body on the earth and then filling them with material such as rocks, twigs, gunpowder, and blood.
Woodman fills her images with feelings of tragedy and loss. Her style relates both to surrealism and Victorian gothic. Her work has a sense of searching for an understanding of self and hints at her depression. Her body is often covered or presented as overexposed and blurry, creating a ghostly image.
There is another connection between these artists that I did not realize until I looked up their biographies for this post. Both women died young in Manhattan by falling out of a window. Francesca Woodman killed herself in 1981 at the age of 22. Ana Mendieta died in 1985 at 37. It is unclear whether or not her death was suicide or an accident. Her husband, artist Carl Andre, was tried and acquitted for her murder. Both the breadth and sophistication in their work is remarkable considering how young they were.