The “Magic” of Matter: Ana Mendieta and the New Materialisms

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The work of Ana Mendieta has much to teach us about our current relationship with our natural environment. While traditionally brought into discussions of feminist or postcolonial histories of the late-20th century, Mendieta’s oeuvre also represents a personal connection the land. By making use of her own body in her work and situating her performances and installations outdoors, Mendieta explored points where the binary between the human and nonhuman breaks down. This exploration adds depth to new understandings of matter, the embeddedness of humans within nonhuman nature, and human embodiment. By considering Mendieta’s work in the context of contemporary changes in theory, which focus on materiality as essential to an understanding of our current time (loosely grouped under the term New Materialisms), I hope to resurface Mendieta’s work as immediately relevant in the 21st century and to cement her place in histories of ecologically-minded artwork of the postwar period.