Filmed in November 1975 in Iowa City, near to where the artist was then living, Silueta Sangrienta (Bloody Silhouette) by Ana Mendieta begins with a shot of the artist’s nude body face upward in the mud of a riverbank, making a deep impression. The film then cuts to the same scene, framed in the same way, but without her body; the hollow silhouette is filled with red liquid, evoking blood. Finally, after a second cut, the artist’s body reappears, though facing downward, the blood-like water pooling around her. Masterfully edited, the continuity of these shots is subtly flecked with shimmering sun on the artist’s face, stomach, or back, or lapping water on the adjacent shoreline. These subtle, poetic movements stand in stark contrast to the artist’s corpse-like body and the stagnant water confined by the outlines of her impression.
The work features motifs that run throughout Mendieta’s practice, particularly the allusions to blood—referring to rituals, violence, corporeality, and loss—and the presence of missing bodies (especially female ones). Silueta Sangrienta (Bloody Silhouette) is part of Mendieta’s ‘Silueta’ series. Completed between 1973 and 1981 at locations in Iowa, Cuba, and Mexico, each silent piece in the series was shot with either an 8-mm or 16-mm film camera. The duration of each is only as long as one reel of film, or shorter. Combining conceptual ideas that would come to define body, performance, and land art of the era, Mendieta’s films document the presence of female forms in various landscapes, which she either moulded or created by impressing her body into materials including mud, sand, grass, snow, gunpowder, ice, wood, cloth, and ashes.