I first saw Ana Mendieta's work in Santiago de Compostela, during a visit maybe 14 years ago? i remember i'd just sprained both of my ankles during the running of the bulls in Pamplona (not running, but jumping off a wall) and was wearing orthopedic clogs over all of Galicia at the end of the summer, dipping my feet in the icy water to try to bring down the swelling and walking very very slowly up and down the streets.
I didn't really know what to make of many of the images in front of me at the museum, of her figures etched on the ground, drawn out of sticks, marked by currents of water and rising in flames, of the ritual and animism, of performing and becoming in feathers and in blood; of stereotypes and personal experience, of death and rebirth, all mixed into one.. Despite the more conceptual works, or the graphic content of others, one image really stuck in my mind: Mendieta masked in her own shampooed hair, patterned all over her face leaving gaps for her eyes nose and mouth, all facing the viewer almost.. nonchalantly.
i took the poster of it and placed it next to a postcard photo of Rosalia de Castro (you know, Padron's most famous writer, next to Camilo Jose Cela). We'd gone to Rosalia's home, and i remember feeling the sadness and the strangeness of the yellowed sheets on the beds, the everydayness of the writer's own quiet spaces, and wishing my ankles would heal quickly.
One face seemed to answer the other. They became companions to me that summer; I still find their work completely inspiring, more mysterious and compelling now even.
If you're in London you can see some of Ana Mendieta's works (including the video from which the picture above is taken, and others, hard to find on youtube) at the Alison Jacques Gallery, but just til this next Saturday (here's a link to the show)