Ana Mendieta was born in Cuba in 1948. In 1961, at the age of 12, she arrived as a refugee in the United States together with her older sister, sent to that country by their parents, who feared for the safety of their daughters, since their father at the time was against the political system established by Fidel Castro ─although he had initially fought against Fulgencio Batista on Castro’s side and held a position in the Cuban communist regime’s ministry. With no family in the US, the Mendieta sisters spent a difficult six years living in various foster homes, until they were reunited with their mother; they saw their father again in 1979, eighteen years after serving a sentence for treason in a Cuban jail.
Between 1969 and 1977, Ana Mendieta studied at the University of Iowa, where she graduated in Fine Arts and obtained a master’s degree in Art in Multiple Media and Video, belonging to the Multimedia Program created and directed by Hans Breder (1935–2017), German American interdisciplinary artist. This training period in Iowa was very important for Mendieta, for whom Breder, her teacher and tutor, plays a significant role contributing to her initiation into the world of art, orientation, and consolidation of her artistic language with her own voice, an artistic career that she developed between 1970 and 1985, the year of her tragic death, which interrupted her talented creativity and fruitful career.
In her beginnings, Mendieta made figurative painting in the expressionist style, then she conceived abstract images inspired by Mesoamerican art, the result of her archaeological experience with Breder in Teotihuacán, Mexico ─which, by the way, also helped her develop her series “Silueta” (“Silhouette”) between 1973 and 1980. Under the influence of her interdisciplinary tutor, Mendieta decided to abandon traditional art to be more experimental, daring, critical and transgressive, moving from painting to a new artistic practice. Mendieta had experimented with various disciplines, such as painting, sculpture, theater, dance, music, photography, film, and writing, courses that were part of the program organized and directed by Breder, aimed at developing ways of artistic expression of a conceptual nature; From that moment on, Mendieta became aware that traditional media such as painting itself, for example, were not the most appropriate for expressing and transmitting what she really aspired to: “… my paintings were not real enough to what I wanted the images to convey, and by real I mean that I wanted my images to have power…”, the artist stated; that is to say ─we infer─, that they were shocking, disturbing.