The latest book to grace the shelves of Bitch's virtual bookstore is Who is Ana Mendieta?. Part comic book, part eulogy, and part social critique, this book is a unique graphic retelling of the life and legacy of conceptual and land artist Ana Mendieta by artists Christine Redfern and Caro Caron.
The book opens with a lengthy, personal introduction from Lucy R. Lipppard, but my advice is to first go straight to the comics section and soak up the Caron's aesthetic. There's no traditional narrative, no neat, nine-box grid that walks you through Mendieta's life. Instead, each page is packed to the panel with dynamic images that skip between caricature and realism, satire and biography, creating a cacophony of context to dive into Mendieta's world: her early work, the American art scene of the '70s, the female artists who preceded her but were also overshadowed by their male contemporaries (Frida Kahlo, Camille Claudel, to name two), her troubling relationship with Carl Andre, and her untimely death.
You won't catch every historical or artistic reference made, but after an initial plunge you can check out the "annotated bibliography" in the back (an abridgment of sorts) and take in Lippard's introduction. Cross-checking theses three sections will you get a more fleshed-out biography of Ana Mendieta, but enjoying their fractured pieces separately has its own rewards, especially for folks who are just now learning about her.
In the press release for the book, the authors admit that it doesn't quite answer the titular question. Instead, "it presses us to consider the suppression of women before they reach their potential, across race and class division." This is a book that will definitely inspire you to think differently about women, art, legacy, and violence.
It's also important for keeping Mendieta's legacy alive. I had never heard of the Cuban-American artist until I fact-checked a snippet of her bio for Bitch ("Body of Work" Noir #42), and sadly I'm not sure if I would have learned of her otherwise. Caron and Redfern found similar results when presenting the book before a New York editorial committee: no one under the age of forty recognized her name.
Who Is Ana Mendieta? is the first from the "Blind Spot" collection from Feminist Press, which aims to highlight radical thinkers and doers from the past who fall outside of history books and collective conscious, so expect more great stuff down the line.
In the meantime, you can get your copy of Who Is Ana Mendieta? today at BitchMart!
Other books for sale at BitchMart: I Speak For Myself: American Women on Being Muslim, Gay Genius, Feminism For Real