(American, born Cuba. 1948–1985)
1984. Sand and binder on wood, 2 3/4 x 19 1/4 x 61 1/2" (7 x 48.9 x 156.2 cm)
Nile Born is a sculpture made of sand, overlaid on a wooden base and shaped to the scale and contour of the artist’s body. While Nile Born is meant to be installed in a gallery, Mendieta is also known for works in which she directly imprinted her body on the natural landscape and documented this action via photography or film.
The form of the female body in this sculpture is both specific and universal, based on the scale of Mendieta’s body but also serving as a symbol of every woman. As a Cuban American exiled from her home country for most of her life, Mendieta considered making art to be “the way I reestablish the bonds that unite me to the universe. It is a return to the maternal source.” The title is a nod to Cuba’s African heritage, a subject Mendieta often incorporated in her work.
The organizing around shared cultural characteristics such as race, class, and religion.
The belief in and advocacy for equal legal and social rights and conditions for women.
A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.
A term that emerged in the 1960s to describe a diverse range of live presentations by artists.
Artistic manipulation of the natural landscape, typically though not exclusively enacted on a large scale.
Born in Cuba, Mendieta and her sister Raquel were sent to the United States to escape Fidel Castro’s regime at the ages of twelve and fourteen, respectively. There they lived in various foster homes in Iowa. Mendieta was unable return to her home country until she was thirty-one years old. Her dual identity as a Cuban living in the United States was at the center of her work: “I am between two cultures, you know?”1
Mendieta used the term “earth-body” to describe her art. Often working directly in the land and creating pieces that disintegrated over time, her work straddled various artistic genres, including performance, body, and earthworks.
The Goddess Figure in Art
While images of goddesses have existed in many cultures around the world since prehistory, feminist artists and art historians developed a renewed interest in the universal female figure in the 1970s. The goddess archetype was appropriated as an empowering and unifying feminine symbol; more recently, such uses of the goddess archetype have been criticized as an oversimplification of women’s diverse identities.