In its striking simplicity, Nile Born embodies the communion of a female figure and the land. A simple wooden form is covered in sand, and a large inner channel suggests a vaginal cavity. Organic and sensual, the silhouette represents the body in its most basic form. “My art is the way I reestablish the bonds that unite me to the universe,” Mendieta said. “It is a return to the maternal source.” Born in Cuba, Mendieta was separated from her family at age twelve and exiled to the United States, where she lived in orphanages and foster homes in Iowa throughout her youth.
Works in Mendieta’s Silueta series, like Nile Born, are often site-specific, earthbound, and subject to the elements and the fragility of the organic materials from which they are made. Nile Born is one of the last Siluetas Mendieta made before her death in 1985, and the title refers to Cuba’s African heritage. The work is an arresting exploration of self, place, belonging, and alienation, concepts that permeate Mendieta’s entire oeuvre of installations, earth works, performances, videos, and sculptures.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, p. 48.