Siluetas was a long-term project with over 200 silhouettes in all. Ana Mendieta photographed her silhouettes created from the earth over time, documenting their ephemerality and presence via absence. She made a wealth of short films following the same concepts, however also showing the ritual processes of working and becoming part of the earth.
It is from this series that I chose my favorite work of art by Mendieta. Untitled (Image from Yagul) from 1973 prompted the beginning of Siluetas in Mexico. In the photograph, Mendieta is nude, laying on the earthen floor of a shallow grave. Hans Breder placed white flowers all around her body and between her arms and legs. The flowers appear to consume her body and although seemingly morbid, this photograph symbolizes regeneration. From death, new life emerges. I appreciate her portrayal of earth and body as one, showing the physical and spiritual connection between the two. Rather than separating them, she prompts a spectator like myself, to think about how universal systems can work together and consider how the differences among organisms might be infinitesimal.
On Giving Life, 1975
Mendieta tends to a study skeleton representative of death, putting modeling clay and red pigment on the bones. After finishing this beautification of the skeleton, Mendieta laid on top of it, creating a physical bond between life and death.
Untitled (Siluetas Series), 1976
Mendieta created this silhouette in the sand then added red pigment. The silhouette deteriorates slowly between each photograph as the waves take away sand, dissolving the outline of the silhouette and washing away all evidence of the artist’s presence.
Anima (Firework Piece), 1976
The forces that changed Mendieta’s silhouettes were not always drawn out natural regressions. She subjected them in some cases to immediate destruction, using fire or in the case of Anima she created a theatrical display using fireworks.
Tree of Life, 1976
Camouflaged against a tree with her arms raised in a gesture symbolizing a “wandering soul,” the artist is present yet absent. It is only when looking closer at the photograph that the outline of Mendieta’s body becomes visible. Otherwise, she has all but melted into the natural surroundings.