Mendieta and Woodman

by tobelikeafeatherby

Dear Sarah,

Last Winter I really enjoyed  an exhibition of Ana Mendieta’s work at The Hayward.

“Untitled” (Facial Hair transplant, mustache), Ana Mendieta, 1972 performance

“Untitled” (Facial Hair transplant, mustache), Ana Mendieta, 1972 performance

The above image is playful and amusing as Mendieta has “dressed up” as a man by glueing someone’s recently shaved-off mustache to her face. She has become a hybrid; the body of a woman and the facial hair of a man. Mendieta still manages to look striking and self-assured despite her peculiar disguise. She owns that mustache. Furthermore, it makes me think about the lengths women go to with hair-removal these days. Here Mendieta has turned conventional female beauty on its head… but I think she still looks amazing (red polo-neck, gold hoop, mustache and all)!

Mendieta explores the themes of the self, gender, and cultural displacement throughout her work. Studying her photographs is to decipher a code written in earth, fire and of course the artist’s own flesh. Nature is also a significant recurring theme.

Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance, 1972–1985

Earth Body, Sculpture and Performance, Ana Mendieta, 1972–1985

The above image shows the artist’s body overgrown with flowers, merging into the earth. The image evokes both life and death. Death because we are reminded that our bodies become part of the earth when we’re buried; life because the flowers symbolise female fecundity. Mendieta’s visual language expresses both the anguish of existence, and the ambivilance that surrounds womanhood.

As we have discussed there is currently an exhibition of Francesca Woodman’s work at the Victoria Miro gallery – it ends on 4th October so go quickly! It must have been my lucky day because when I went on my day off a couple of weeks ago I was handed a glass of champagne as I entered due to an event the gallery was holding. The show explores the zigzag motif which recurs through Woodman’s work.

from Angel Series, 1977-1978

from Angel Series, Francesca Woodman, 1977-1978

Similarly to Mendieta, Woodman uses her body as her main tool of expression. In the work above Woodman’s feet appear to spring up from tracks in the earth.

Untitled, MacDowell Colony, Francesca Woodman, 1980

Untitled, MacDowell Colony, Francesca Woodman, 1980

The above photograph was one of my favourites. Woodman is “dressed up” as a tree. Is she hiding or escaping from life? Or is she simply playing in the woods?

Ellie x x x

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