Artist Statement / Sophie Paquette

Ana Mendieta was a Cuban-American artist working primarily in the 1970’s and early 80’s, in sculpture, film, performance, and her self-coined “earth-body art.” Working in media such as dirt, blood, ice, and fire, Mendieta often placed her body, or the outline of her body, in organic scenes—usually documented through film stills. On her “Siluetas” series, Mendieta said, “This obsessive act of reasserting my ties with the earth is really [a] reactivation of primeval beliefs [in] an omnipresent female force; the after-image of being encompassed within the womb, is a manifestation of my thirst for being.” Mendieta challenged biologically reductive images of the essentialist “Mother Nature” by studying the body only as absence. These tracings populate feminized natural spaces, divorced from the physical form—allowing Mendieta to explore themes of detachment, colonialism, and objectification, but also to connect her body so completely to the earth that it has been absorbed, fossilized, made artifact. To me, body image has always existed as a kind of after-image: a self studied ceaselessly in mirrors, more imprint than actual form. Considering my relationship with reflection, I decided to pair Ana Mendieta’s life and work with other modes of obsessive retracing, tattoos (particularly stick and poke) and animation. Both processes, to me, existed in the same vein: stick and poke tattoos appearing only through a repeated outline, inserting individual holes in the skin and filling this negative space to create image; and animation, similarly tedious, a medium so consumed with retracing that the specifics of the form, mid-animation, become vague. The animation, too, allowed me to reintroduce motion to a body of work typically remembered in film stills, once able to breathe but since made stagnant. It was with Mendieta’s devotion to “reactivation” in mind that I decided my essay needed to move, to expand and take up temporal space. Made collaboratively with musician Sophia Bondi, “Stick/Poke” is an attempt to stitch multiple media together, a project that, in its obsessive process, not only made me feel closer to Mendieta’s work but to the content in general. With this project I hope to study, mirror, and honor Mendieta. As my body has shifted and changed, I plan for my art to always do the same: amorphous and untethered to any single medium, existing across forms in a constant attempt to outline, understand, and recognize the self—as Mendieta said, “a manifestation of my thirst for being.”