Before her death in the 1980s, Ana Mendieta was a rising star in Manhattan’s art scene. She was an interdisciplinary artist known for her signature style called “earth-body art.” Ana’s work represented her identity as a Cuban female artist, and she worked tirelessly for recognition in a world dominated by white men.
Her pieces ranged from creating body silhouettes from mud, rocks, flowers, and leaves to performance art influenced by Cuban and Mexican occult and folk traditions. Ana also created provoking self-portraits that challenged beauty and gender norms. In some pieces, she would photograph herself covered in blood, smush her face against glass to snap distorted self-portraits, and disguise herself with facial hair.
Ana often used blood in her performance pieces, including Body Tracks, where she covered her hands and arms in blood and smeared them on a wall. She was considered a feminist artist and befriended peers like Carolee Schneemann, Nancy Spero, and Mary Beth Edelson.
To the surprise of many, Ana married a popular and older sculptor, Carl Andre, in 1985. Carl was a wealthy, white, and well-established artist from New England who became famous in the 1960s for his minimalist sculptures and operated the art world’s inner circles. He was the polar opposite of Ana – she was a Cuban refugee, a woman, and an interdisciplinary Avant Garde artist whose first pieces were created in Iowa in the 1970s.
In 1985, months after their wedding, Carl dialed 911 and exclaimed his wife “went out the window” of their 34th floor apartment on NYC’s Mercer Street. Ana was pronounced dead, and folks speculated that Carl killed Ana. When Carl was charged with murder, this divided the art world.
In Pushkin’s “Death of an Artist,” host Helen Molesworth examines Ana’s death, the murder trial, and investigates both sides. Helen delves into the active protests and silence that have followed this story for over 35 years. Start the true crime podcast from the beginning to hear the case unfold in episodes running less than 45 minutes each.
Ana’s friends and family called for an investigation after her death, but many art world leaders cast them aside as a “feminist cabal.” At the time of Ana’s death, the couple was drinking. Carl claimed he did not remember anything that led to the incident and considered that Ana could have committed suicide. Those who knew the couple floated the possibility that Carl pushed her out the window during an argument.
When Carl was brought in for questioning, his story was inconsistent, he had scratches on face, and claimed he was innocent. Episode 2 dives into Carl’s history, his relationship with Ana, and tries to make sense of what happened that night. Carl was indicted 3 times and acquitted since there was not enough evidence to corroborate the theory that Ana was pushed out the window.
During the trial, Carl tried to use Ana’s art against her and attempted to use his clout to support his case. On the podcast, host Helen reveals her personal connection to this case, Carl, his work, and how it affected her career. We’ll also hear how the public is still grappling with Ana’s death, what Carl is doing today, and more.
New “Death of an Artist” episodes will be released throughout October wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.