Ana Mendieta, Untitled (drom the Silueta series), 1980, Gelatin silver emulsion print; 39 1/2 x 53 1/4 inches
I chose this piece because glancing at it gave me a much more different impression than actually taking the time to absorb it entirely. Glancing at it at first, I saw the main humanoid figure, but I thought I also saw at least two more squished against it from above and below its shoulder-widths in the dirt. The first thing that jumped to mind was the word “claustrophobia”– a beautiful earthen representation of claustrophobia.
However, when I took a second, closer, maximized look at this photo, it surprisingly did not make me feel uncomfortable. I discovered quickly there was only a single figure with a root impaling its form like a metal pole. Yes, I consciously acknowledge that is what it looks like, but my brain does not process it further than the morbid joke “a splitting headache” or perhaps the solemn, respectful acknowledgement that perhaps the artist might be artistically representing rape.
But that’s not what I feel, looking at it. How I feel and what I imaginatively see or even logically think are totally separated.
I feel calm. Cozy. Comfy, even. Looking at that body– or that figure of a body, tightly packed into the ground, makes me feel incredibly tranquilized in the most soothing way. I feel at peace, protected, and safe; its as if my mind is projecting itself into the figure. Even the invasive, seemingly oppressive-natured root itself nearly becomes virtually invisible. It might as well not even be there. But I guess a lifeless figure wouldn’t be able to notice it either. When I think a little into it, after I admit this, I worry it might seem morbid; does a lifeless representation of a human figure not symbolize a corpse in some ways? Oddly enough, my conscious mind processes that when I analyze it, but my brain itself, enjoying the piece, does not. It only finds comfort.
I guess its just the thought of being tucked away, motionless, packed into soft soil and sediment like an all-encompassing blanket or even a full-body hug with nature. To be that concept, a lifeless figure tucked comfily into some enclosed, small, welcoming space without a conscious thought or care in the world. Its therapeutic, in a way. I dunno… I like that. It makes me feel so safe, so at peace, just to look at that image.
(P.S. This isn’t a psychological evaluation, is it?)