Untitled (Blood Writing) “She Got Love”

Untitled (Blood Writing), also referred to as “She Got Love”, was filmed in Iowa City, Iowa in February of 1974. At the time of Untitled (Blood Writing)’s creation, Mendieta was employed as an art teacher at a local Iowa City public school.[1] February of 1974 also marked a little over a year post the Roe V. Wade abortion ruling, and a little under a year past the rape and murder of fellow University of Iowa student, Sarah Ann Otten. [2] [3]

The film opens to Ana Mendieta’s back as she faces the blank, white side of a building with two white doors large doors. The edge of the frame is partially eclipsed by the shadow of a wall. She approaches the building, walking steadily toward the left side and then stops, raising her right arm, moving it back and forth as her hand leaves a trail of red on the surface directly in front of her face. The motion of her arm spells out an “S” repeats, repainting the surface a darker red. She steps to the right and her arm again moves in front of her face, this time making an “H” before stepping again and adding an “E”. “SHE” is spelled out across the left side of the white surface, streaks from her fingers leaving variations in the red. She returns to her stance in front of the “S” and begins to spell out “GOT” underneath “SHE”, a red drip trailing down from the “G”. Stepping again sideways, her shadow trails her as she moves to the right side of the frame. She spells out “LOVE” in larger letters that mirror the words dripping to her left. She moves quickly across the frame as thin drips running down from the letters. Once the words are complete, she bends over to set down the source of the red and turns, stepping out of the frame. The camera remains focused on the words for 20 seconds, variations in the film running across the frame. Mendieta’s shadow returns to the frame, as if she stands, behind the camera taking in her work. She raises an arm and leans against a wall, the actions reflected in the newly jointed shadows moving across the white. The frame remains like so for 30 seconds before the film ends and the frame goes to black.

In Untitled (Blood Writing), Mendieta deliberately marks a clean white wall with blood, permanently changing it and marring its previously pure, undisturbed pallidity. Untitled (Blood Writing) was part of a series of Mendieta’s films and photographs considered “action paintings” that employed blood as a central component. Blood was used or references as a motif by many other feminist artists in this time period, including Carolee Schneemann, Gina Pane, Nancy Spero and Shigeko Kubota in an effort to provoke viewers and breach social norms and expectations of feminine modesty.[4] Mendieta also sought this result, however the use of blood in her work communicated more established cultural references to her history and surroundings.[5]

Mendieta’s religious history was a combination of Catholicism and Santeria, an Afro-Cuban religion she was exposed to at an early age by way of her family’s housekeepers. However, her interest in spirituality, religion and specifically those who acknowledge the supernatural was pan cultural. [6] Within both Catholicism and Santeria, blood served as a recurring symbol and metaphor. Within Santeria, specifically, blood was employed in rituals meaning to empower the gods, many of which are performed and dominated by women. Additionally, the Santero, or leading male role, has an equivalent female counterpart in the Santera. These examples of female agency within Mendieta’s own cultural background appealed to her developing feminist consciousness.5 Mendieta developed an affinity specifically for these rituals, which may have lead to and influenced her own performances. The introduction of such spiritual practices into North American, mainstream culture not only disturbed what was culturally permissible and acceptable, but also created an interaction between the two cultures. In establishing this interaction Mendieta established a platform on which she could exist free from the isolation she experienced as a young, transplanted Cuban American.

The actions of marking the wall were central to the series and to creating what she called “blood writing.” The process of doing so manifested Mendieta’s presence at the site, changing it from a fleeting, passing presence to a permanent inscription to remain in her absence. Unlike the work of her feminist contemporaries, Mendieta’s actions didn’t call for audience interaction. Her films were entirely premeditated, leaving no aspects of the piece out of her control. Her actions in the films were private acts rather than performative pieces and are made accessible only though her use of documentation.6 In creating the film, Mendieta simultaneously performed a subjective role as the medium used in the film and an objective role as the eye manipulating and employing he camera.

She continued to explore notions of marking her presence and utilizing body tracks and prints for years into her career, ultimately transitioning to a more universal silueta form or alter ego for her own body’s markings.

[1] Mendieta, Ana, Olga M. Viso, and Guy Brett. Ana Mendieta – Earth Body: Sculpture and Performance, 1972 – 1985;. Washington, DC: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, 2004. Print

[2] McBride, Alex. “Landmark Cases: Roe v. Wade.” PBS. PBS, Dec. 2006. Web. 04 June 2014.

[3] “Sarah Ottens – Iowa Cold Cases.” Iowa Cold Cases. Cold Cases Inc, 2005. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

[4] Lombardi, Monica. “The Blogazine.” The Blogazine Contemporary Lifestyle Magazine. The Blogazine, 25 June 2012. Web. 04 June 2014.

[5] Mendieta, Ana, Gloria Moure, and Donald B. Kuspit. Ana Mendieta. Galicia, Spain: Centro Galego De Arte Contemporánea, 1996. Print.

[6] Mendieta, Ana, Peter Fischer, Patrick Dondelinger, and Laura Roulet. Ana Mendieta: Body Tracks. Luzern: Kunstmuseum Luzern, 2002. Print.

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