Perfect Lovers

This is 'Perfect Lovers'
Created by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, it is not just one of my favorite pieces, it also happens to be one I consider to be pure 'genius'.

Even if your first inclination is to think the proverbial:
"I can do that!, literally take two Ikea-looking clocks and but them side to side."

It is a genius because you would be right, you can actually do that!!!
FGT was a very generous artist because anyone can have his work in their very own home and at times for free! 

Where Felix demonstrates his ingenuity is by injecting humanity into these otherwise inanimate objects by titling the piece 'Perfect Lovers'.

And in turn, he makes the clocks symbolic and gives it meaning.

The object, to begin with, is a marker of time and a signifier of time passing...

Time could be representative of that specific moment a couple met...
or even the time they'll spend together.

He expresses their "perfectness" by pairing identical clocks keeping identical time and starting off with the seconds hand in perfect unison, and as with any object, once you pair it with the same object, it becomes a couple, highlighting their sameness and giving a nod to a (his) same-sex relationship.

Each clock is thereby representative of him and of his lover, Ross, existing in perfect harmony by keeping synchronistic time.

But because it is battery-operated, one of the clocks will eventually slow down and eventually run out of power before the other one and both will eventually cease to mark time....

This in turn becomes an indicator of his and Ross's mortality and an end to their time together, making it a poignant and moving piece for two people who were battling AIDS.

But it doesn't just stop there, the two circular outlines of the clocks touch and in turn draw out a horizontal figure eight...which is associated with the infinity symbol.

A testament to love....everlasting....forever....
that love exists even after loss
and that even the art piece itself can last beyond its usefulness,
for even if both clocks stop marking time, their union remains infinite in itself...



Ana Mendieta is Cubana

Ana Mendieta is Cubana...

Yes, this is well-known...it is right there next to her name in Wikipedia. (Well, it actually says 'Cuban-American' which is not synonymous with my usage of the term, Cuban-American actually referring to first-generation Americans born of Cuban parents). Ana is actually Cuban-born, she just studied, worked and lived most of her life in the U.S.

Regardless, her heritage is no secret and although she described her work as 'earth body' works, her work is unique for its hybridity of media and very often cross-categorized under many art movements of the late 1960s and 70s, namely 'Land Art', 'Earthworks', 'Body Art', 'Performance Art' and 'Feminist Art.' She is perhaps most popularly known for her series titled 'Silueta' or 'Silhouette' in which she leaves a physical tracing or indentation of her body upon the earth's surface. Her work assimilates issues of race, gender, cultural and spiritual identity and although it fits neatly within the definitions of many of the art movements mentioned above, her impetus to creating this type of work is usually not fully stated or perhaps understood. 

But the other day, upon seeing her work, I had an epiphany and put two and two together. It all of a sudden occurred to me that Ana Mendieta is Cubana! In other words, she isn't Cuban and does this type of work, she does this type of work because she is cuban! This late realization perhaps happened because when I first studied and read about her in art history classes, she was imbedded within the context of art movements.

In 1961, at the age of 12, Mendieta was sent to the US. under the auspices of Operation Pedro Pan. This program between the Catholic Church and the Cuban and American governments separated 14,000 Cuban children from their families and transplanted them in the United States. This program was set up because Cuban parents living on the island did not want their children to grow up under the indoctrination and ideology of Castro's Communist regime and therefore sent them unaccompanied to live in the United States. The program ended when all commercial flights between Cuba and the United States ceased after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It is still the largest recorded exodus of unaccompanied minors in the western hemisphere.

So at an early age, Ana Mendieta and her sister were torn from her family and homeland and sent to live in foster homes in Iowa. Needless to say this must have been a very traumatizing experience, not simply because of finding oneself in a place without friends and family at a crucial period in one's youth, but one of also complete social and cultural alienation living amongst a foreign language and landscape. 

Once one can empathize with the trauma and alienation something like this may cause during the developmental stages of adolescence, it becomes increasingly clear why Mendieta would choose and execute the work that she did. Her ritualistic relationship with the 'earth' can be attributed with a cathartic exercise of salving a longing for place and tierra. With the series 'Silueta', Ana Mendieta finally becomes 'one' with the tierra she more than likely pined for during her youth. The earth not only symbolizes nature/planet but also family/identity.

We can also see the attributes of this feeling of displacement with her much earlier work the 'self-portraits'. Here she puts on the guises of other identities as a way to communicate and question her true self.

Several examples of Ana Mendieta's 'self-portrait' series which extended to include her donning facial hair and distorting her body.

I now look at Ana Mendieta's work and I no longer see work in which the earth and the artworks are inextricably linked but rather I see work in which identity and the land are.