Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review: Who is Ana Mendieta?

After giving it some thought, I'd like to make a little room in this blog for book reviews.  I have a fair number of books in my possession, many of which I am quite fond of.  This week, I'd like to introduce you to a recent favorite of mine - a graphic novel titled "Who is Ana Mendieta", the work of Christine Redfern and Caro Caron.

I was lucky enough, not only to see the original artwork for this graphic novel, but to have the chance to study it up close over a matter of about two months.  During this time, the panels were on display in the art gallery at which I work.  They told a compelling story in a cartoon style not quite like anything I'd seen before - elastic and raw, with so much punch and emotion I would almost forget it was all in black and white.  I found this format to be really effective at communicating the passionate and unapologetic nature of the story, and its heroine.

The novel itself reads as a biography of Ana Mendieta.  It focuses mostly on her years and work as an artist in the 70s and 80s, working in sculpture, film, and most notably her "earth-body" works.  It also focuses on her role in the feminist movement of the day, and the overall climate of that time in history.  While the biographical nature of the work, and the depiction of the influences surrounding Mendieta's life, make it seem at first like a snapshot of the time in which she lived, there is a story arc, which makes itself most clear toward the end.

A word of warning - this is a "graphic" novel in more than one sense.  Nudity and violence are not shied away from in the telling of this story, being as they are a significant part of it.  It is a very honest depiction, and the greater part of it is very beautiful.  Not gratuitous, but beautiful, brutal, and honest.  One of the big accomplishments of this novel, I think, is that there is so much focus on the beauty of Mendieta's life, such that it stays in the mind as strongly as the hardships and tragedy of it.

On either side of this story are longer pieces of text:  A forward by Lucy R. Lippard, and then an end part titled "Blind Spot - a note to readers".  At the very end is a newspaper-layout of articles giving more information on certain details of the story, illustrated with thumbnail cartoons from the main part of the novel.  Each of these sections holds interest, fleshing out the main narrative with smaller ones, using different formats to make it easier to take in piece by piece.  I am impressed by how well this technique works for this book.  It really is an accomplishment to be able to tell this story in a way that keeps the readers' attention, while providing the context of an incredibly complicated time in history.

Long story short, this book took me right in.  I wound up feeling as if I had a personal connection to this artist, whom I might otherwise never even have heard of.  The novel as a whole is fascinating and thoughtfully crafted, even as it delivers a hard emotional punch.  Not a book I'd recommend for all ages, but I feel it is important to have Ana Mendieta's story out there to be read like this.

Thanks for reading, Blogger world!  Before I go, the 365-part project continues :P -

February 19th, 2013:  Surrealist Jam in the Sun by ~Eseopia on deviantART

February 18th, 2013:  The Sun and Sands of Time by ~Eseopia on deviantART

February 17th, 2013:  Storm Before the Calm by ~Eseopia on deviantART

'Till next time!