Spray Paint, Stone Field, Carl Andre. We Wish Ana Mendieta Were Still Alive.

Posted: March 29, 2015 in for your reflection

As Mira Schor says in her excellent article, Still Naked By The Window, “It is an old story that some very good art is made by some very awful people and that people are both good and bad, but it is really important that the story be told, not just that it happened, but the way Carl Andre was protected and continues to be.” We would have to add to that, “And it is so important to remember Ana Mendieta to speak her name and say, we wish Ana Mendieta were still alive.”

"Stone Field Sculpture"

(1) Marked Stone Field, Hartford Ct.

painted rock 2

We Wish Ana Mendieta Were Still Alive.

Ana Mendieta, Arbol de la Vida (Tree of Life Series 1977)

Last week in Hartford utility workers marking an area that is to be under construction happened to spray paint on 16 of the 36 boulders in Stone Field the sculpture by Carl Andre. A chorus of outrage rang out among the so called Downtown Dwellers, How could anyone do this to our very own Carl Andre sculpture? One would think that the unwashed masses had stormed the winter place and looted the art and precious jewels. I was a bit taken aback that when looking over the photos of the painted rocks I didn’t feel one way or the other. It was like I didn’t care. Now that is coming from a person who joined in support for Carl Andre’s Stone Field sculpture with others in the contemporary arts, back when Hartford’s Mayor Buffoon George Athanson condemned the work as child’s play and the price paid for it. ( 2 ) But imagine my surprise when a young woman artist wished on the facebook page that Carl Andre could be brought to town for a lecture. I wondered to myself did she know the story of one of our favorite artists Ana Mendieta? Probably not. If she did, did she care? I would hope so. If she didn’t then its time for her to learn some of herstory. When Stone Field just sits there and shuts up doing what it does its okay. The bleeding doesn’t start again. But for many of us those rocks still bleed. It was easy for those who washed away the paint but as we remember from Macbeth that no matter how much Lady Macbeth washed her hands the blood could still be seen. It is our duty those of us who remember to remind and to retell the story of Ana Mendieta whenever Carl Andre’s name or art is in the news.

“Here’s the smell of blood: All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, Oh, Oh!… Lady Macbeth

“Now for the patriarchy takes care of its own side of the story: there are many people in the New York artworld who believe that Carl Andre threw his wife Ana Mendieta out the window of their thirty-fourth floor apartment at 300 Mercer Street in the Village, September 8, 1985. “It is always fascinating to watch patriarchy take care of its own. A major retrospective of Carl Andre is about to open at Dia and first off let me just say that it looks like it will be a good exhibition, maybe a really good exhibition, one with some interest to contemporary artists struggling to reconcile the real, theory or something like rigor with materiality. (3 )

“Ana’s death is one of millions that, despite four decades of feminist struggle, remain underestimated—social crimes that have yet to be fully confronted. . . . The very directness of the graphic novella is an ideal vehicle for the outrage women feel about the extent of domestic and general violence against us. May there be many more visual outcries like this one, to avenge the loss of women like Ana Mendieta.”

—Lucy Lippard, from the introduction of Who is Ana Mendieta?


Imagen de Yagul from the series Silueta works in Mexico , Ana Menideta 1973-1977

In 1992, the Guggenheim Museum in New York held the inaugural show for its new – and what would turn out to be short-lived – downtown art gallery in SoHo. The opening was memorable not for the art within, but the action outside. To enter the exhibition the great and the good of the New York art world had to pass a picket line of about 500 feminist protesters, many of them carrying banners that read: “Where Is Ana Mendieta?”

That question was directed at the male-dominated art establishment, which feminists claimed had already forgotten Ana Mendieta, who had died seven years earlier. What incensed the protesters even more was the inclusion in the show of a work by her former partner, the minimalist sculptor Carl Andre. To them, as well as to Mendieta’s family and many of her friends, Andre was responsible for her death.

In the early hours of 8 September 1985, Mendieta had – to borrow the words Andre had used when he called the emergency services – “somehow gone out the window” of their 34th floor apartment on Manhattan’s Mercer Street.

Both had been drinking heavily. Andre later claimed to remember nothing of the events leading up to her death and that she may even have committed suicide, but those that knew her well – and knew of her acute fear of heights – thought this unlikely. Many of them believed he had pushed or even thrown her out of the window during a drunken argument. (4)

Ana Mendieta

we wish Ana Mendieta were still alive, protest at Dia. Chelsea (5)

“For me what’s interesting is not the fact that he did or didn’t do it, but that the art world was so interested in protecting him whether or not he did it,” Mohammad Salemy, a Vancouver-and New York–based independent curator, told me. “They intervened in the justice system. You can’t trust the outcome of the trial because there were powerful forces influencing it.”


I didn’t think I would be able to cry on command.
Untitled Silueta Series Iowa 1978


Stone Field, Gold Street Hartford Connecticut

( 1) Andre’s ‘Stone Field Sculpture’ In Downtown Hartford Suffers Another Indignity. Hartford Courant, March 23, 2015

( 2 )  The boulders were installed in 1977, a commission by the city using $100,000 in grants from The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the federal National Endowment for the Arts. The sculpture immediately drew harsh criticism. Former Hartford Mayor George Athanson warned the work would expose the city “to international ridicule.” “It’s just a bunch of rocks. Little kids could do that,” Athanson said at the time. Andre pocketed $87,000 of the commission, after the cost of transporting the boulders and dropping them into place.

Check out this article by Owen Mc Nally, Stone Field Sculpture, Hartford Rocks-Twenty Years After Critics Cast First Stone, Carl Andre’s Sculpture Stands.

( 3) Still Naked By The Window, Mira Schor

( 4) Ana Mendieta: death of an artist foretold in blood.

(5) Artists Protest Carl Andre Retrospective With Blood Outside Dia: Chelsea.


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