As a first year student, my experience with campus thus far is that opportunities are everywhere, even when you’re not looking. I realized this as I sat in the advisor’s office of the Gender, Women & Sexualities Studies (GWSS) Department intending to declare my second major. I shared excitement over my recent acceptance into the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program and expressed a bit of wonder at how I would incorporate one major into the other. It was at this point that Judith Katz, the advisor, mentioned she had a wonderful feminist of a friend (Howard Oransky) who also happened to be curator for the Nash Gallery on campus. Things began to fall into place as she then mentioned the big show currently in the works was an Ana Mendieta film retrospective. Ana Mendieta, a Cuban American artist active in the 70’s and 80’s, was a large part of the feminist art movement as well as the performative and land art movements. Judith encouraged me to contact Howard, and I did hoping to get a glimpse of the pieces and help in preparing for the show, never expecting the opportunities for involvement I’ve been granted.
Meeting with Howard and viewing some of Ana’s films, I learned of the process currently occurring which will ultimately culminate in fall 2015 with the largest collection of Ana Mendieta’s films ever shown in a gallery exhibition in the United States. The exhibition is being organized by a curatorial team that includes Jane Blocker (Professor of Art History and author of highly-regarded monograph on Ana Mendieta, Where is Ana Mendieta?: Identity, Performativity and Exile (Duke 1999), Lynn Lukkas (Associate Professor of Experimental and Media Arts) and Howard Oransky (Director of the Katherine E. Nash Gallery). The show will begin in Minneapolis and travel from there accompanied by the first ever complete catalogue of her films produced. Laura Werthheim, a PhD student in the Art History department at the University of Minnesota researched and wrote the filmography for the exhibition catalogue. The preparations and processes going into the show are multi-disciplinary and involve multiple facets of the University. The exhibition is being co-sponsored by the Department of American Studies, the Department of Art, the Department of Art History, the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, and the Institute for Advanced Study and is presented in collaboration with the consul of México. I myself, will now act as a student ambassador for the exhibit and try my hardest not to melt into a puddle of excitement in the interim.
In order to incorporate my newfound involvement with Mendieta’s work and the show into my studies I have begun an independent study through the GWSS department. The independent study is focused on gaining insight into the work of Ana Mendieta, through exploring her personal history and life, her chosen artistic mediums, and related critical feminist theories. Using these theories I intend to assess the context of her work in relation to her location as a Cuban American female artist in the 1970’s/80’s. This blog will serve as a platform to analyze and present information I encounter. Through investigating and gathering data on the life and work of Ana Mendieta, and simultaneously completing tasks for Howard Oransky to assist with the upcoming show of her work, I will have the opportunity to gain great practice and experience in research methods, as well as the opportunity to witness and learn from the curation of an influential body of work and the production and execution of a gallery show.
I am interested in studying Ana Mendieta, not only because of the upcoming show, but also because of the way her work functions as an intersection between the two academic disciplines I have chosen to study. In further comprehending her artwork I hope to be provided with information and inspiration to supplement my own body of artwork. Additionally, the newfound perspectives and understandings of Mendieta’s work will enable me to better assist in articulating the importance of the upcoming film retrospective as I connect with various groups on campus in preparation for it. Comprehending the history and location of Mendieta’s body of work and thus understanding the source of it’s acclaim will enable me to employ tactics she used to improve my own work as both an Art and GWSS student.
In the following weeks and months, I will use this blog to analyze and respond to texts, interviews and research on and surrounding Ana Mendieta. I will describe the processes and updates leading up to the exhibition of her work in Fall 2015. I will attempt to extract from her life and body of work a variety of points of interest in order to establish connections to her work with students and community members on and off campus. And I will try my best to create and sustain an interesting blog with lots to contribute towards the knowledge and appreciation of Ana Mendieta and her extensive body of work.