Ana Mendieta was a Cuban-born American artist whose unique body of work incorporated performance, activism, Earth art, installation, and the Afro-Cuban practices of Santería. She began her career at the University of Iowa, were she initially received her degree in painting in 1969. It was not until 1972 that Mendieta shifted radically to performance art.

Though she was raised Catholic, she developed an interest in the rituals involved with Santería, a culturally predominant Cuban religion, and it deeply influenced her work in her choice of materials and settings. Santería is one of the major faith-based lifestyles of Cuba and is characterized by a synthesis of Afro-Cuban and Catholic characteristics, along with its own unique teachings and rituals. Also a prominent theme in Mendieta’s work was her sense of displacement and her insatiable desire to reconcile her Cuban heritage, which she attempts to resolve, not only through her art, but also during several trips to Cuba.

Greater still in its contribution of influence to Mendieta’s work was the ecofeminist movement which amalgamated elements of the feminist and environmental movements; Ecofeminism’s emergence in the United States coincided with the rise of Mendieta’s career during the 1970’s. The movement focused on the correlation between the oppression, degradation, and exploitation of women and the oppression, degradation, and exploitation of the Earth.

This thesis examines the life of Ana Mendieta and analyzes how her works may be viewed in an ecofeminist context. It analyzes how Mendieta’s work acts as a reflection of her cultural, social, and political reality and discusses ways in which characteristics of Santería and ecofeminism as a discourse influenced the imagery and symbolism used in Mendieta’s artwork throughout her brief career. Formal analysis of Mendieta’s artwork and contextual and historical analysis of Mendieta’s life, the ecofeminist discourse, and Afro-Cuban spirituality are explored in this research.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Mendoza, Ilenia Colón


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities


Art History

Degree Program

Art History


Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Release Date

May 2017