In the contemporary art world, it is apparent that art suffers from a perpetual crisis of meaning. Since the collapse of great cultural signifiers, the role of the artist is no longer seen as being at the forefront of revealing truth or informing culture. Rather, artists are the ones rummaging among the ruins, picking at and scavenging dead cultural signifiers, or kicking them aside to pursue a course of pure unencumbered self-exploration, only one that is stultified and cemented-in by reified identity-categories; but to what end or final terminal point does art itself reach when the symbols shatter? It is a certain attribute of the postmodern age that art, from its creation, display and execution, is anything at all which can be seen through the aesthetic lens. If art is everything then (like Arthur Danto suggestion) it is simultaneous nothing. So where does this leave the questions that drive headlong into the heart of existence itself, such as the nature of death, love, sexuality and metaphysics?
In spite of the denials and scoffing of the dower, cynical and chic nihilist art world, that metaphysical element of existence itself is the linchpin from which we can even think about the two primarily lurid fascinations contemporary art is fixated on, that being sexuality and death. So why is metaphysics, the ecstasies and haecceities of religion, the terrible and precarious beauty of belief in the wake of the absolute so glaringly absent in contemporary art? Perhaps the spiritual never left the art world, but was forced to take on numerous, inverted and even covert forms. it is also apparent that the nature of the Feminine itself is also another subject of obsession in the work of art, which brings us to our main topic of exploration, the once forgotten (but recently revived) works of Ana Mendieta; Cuban born performance, sculpture and instillation artist who worked in Iowa and then New York (till her tragic, untimely and notorious end allegedly at the hands of her artist husband Carl Andre), Mendieta embodied the postmodern artist at once in search of not only identity and expressions of the feminine, but the ritualistic and mystical. Hence Through a review of her famed Silueta or “silhouette” series, we shall discover a deep aesthetic meditation on not only sex and death, but a revival of the spiritual in postmodern art. We shall also cautiously venture away from the insipid and ubiquitous interpretation of her work through the lens of contemporary identity politics, and instead focus squarely on the spiritual elements of her oeuvre. Continue reading “Burnt Flowers Fallen: Sex, Death and Postmodern Re-Sanctification of the Feminine in Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series (1973–1980), by Giovanni Pennacchietti”