'Energy Charge' exhibit brings 1970s feminist artist into the 21st Century

ASU Art Museum to bring Ana Mendieta's work together with five contemporary artists

ASU Art Museum will be hosting an exhibition Sept. 23 through Dec. 31 of Cuban artist Ana Mendieta's work, ranging from 1972 to 1985, along with five other contemporary artists, whose work has close ties to Mendieta's collection.

Heather Lineberry, senior curator and associate director for the ASU Art Museum, said that Mendieta’s art fluidly moves through all sorts of mediums, and because of that, the upcoming exhibit will be showcasing some of her earthwork, female body photography, films and paintings.

Due to the era in which Mendieta was creating her art, the 70s, much of it is strongly influenced by feminist ideals and the feminine body. 

Lineberry said that Mendieta’s art “asserts the female body,” which correlates with her feminist artistic style. While Mendieta was not a household name, she was well known among fellow artists. She essentially was an “artist’s artist,” explained Lineberry.

Many of her artistic photographs were taken of her own body with the combination of natural elements such as fire, wood, vegetation and rocks. This played on the idea of representing how women's bodies are connected with the environment. A reoccurring theme that can easily be seen through her work is the usage of silhouettes. 

One of the installations, "Ñañigo Burial," an outline of a body made out of candles, will be relit every other Thursday until the exhibition closes. 

Aside from paintings, displays and photography, Mendieta’s films will be playing throughout the exhibit as well. Instead of using film as a narrative outlet, Mendieta uses it for symbolic references of social issues, such as coping with a fractured identity due to being an immigrant. 

A photo posted by ASU Art Museum (@asuartmuseum) on

Mendieta used her art to call attention to vital social ills, and the contemporary artists' features do the same, except in a more specific manner. "Oasis Installation & Performances" by Ana Teresa Fernández will be featuring a video performance, named "Erasure," that honors the memory of a group of Mexican students who were never found. 

"Erasure is a series that I did in homage to the 43 disappeared students of Ayotzinapa, Mexico," Fernández said. "I did a performance where I painted myself out black in a black room, erasing my identity." 

Another artist that uses her art in response to societal issues is Antonia Wright, based in Miami. The female body has also played a big role within her art, and just like Mendieta, she has even used her own body in some of her works. Wright has a video showing herself rolling down an oily and dirty alley to represent the impact that the BP Oil Spill had on society.

Kate Gilmore and her exhibit, "All I’m Taking with Me," is also apart of Mendieta's exhibition. Her exhibit features sculpture, performance and other artistic outlets. Gilmore describes her art as very experiential. Lineberry also mentioned that Gilmore’s performances and pieces are “darkly humorous,” while using artistic materials in a nontraditional manner.

The other artists that will be partaking in the exhibit include Simone Leigh and Gina Osterloh. Leigh takes inspiration from the Black female body for much of her work, which can be seen through her many installations, videos and sculptures. 

Osterloh and her exhibit "Prick!" also uses the human form throughout her creative and colorful photography. Osterloh places the human body in almost all of her pieces but not in extremely obvious manners. She plays with the idea of always being present but not always being seen throughout her work. Similarly to Mendieta, the silhouette is a common theme throughout Osterloh’s art.

Without the help of a few foundations, it would not have been possible for Mendieta’s collections of art to be displayed for the public. Specifically, The Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation, which supported the exhibition and loaned several works by Ana Mendieta to be displayed in the museum, Susan Driver, the foundation registrar, said. 

The Season Opening Reception for ASU Art Museum will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sep. 23, and the exhibition itself will run from Sept. 23 through Dec. 31.  

Reach the reporter at mmbaiett@asu.edu or follow @marcellabaietto on Twitter.

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