CPS Week Four
Anna Medieta Self Portrait – 1973
Ana Mendieta’s Untitled Self portrait with blood is a photograph printed on coloured paper. Starting with formal analysis, the colours in the portrait are tinted with a yellow hue from the synthetic lighting. The rest of the colour palette is fairly bland allowing the red of the blood to stand out. The shadows in the portrait cause the angles of the face to be sharper. The shadow reflected on the wall behind blends into the main subjects hair and draws more focus and attention to the face. The darkest points of the photograph are the hair, eyes and nostrils. But, the highlights within the eyes and left nostril draws the viewers eye to fixate on those areas whilst also emphasising the darkness around it. The size of the piece is 398 × 310 × 32 mm which is similar to B3 sized paper although, being a photograph the work can be easily scaled up or down to any desired size. The shape of the photograph seems to follow standard portrait formatting. As the piece is titled as a self portrait it hints the fact the piece may be autobiographical and the use of the fake blood hints at a narrative nature.
Untitled Self-Portrait with blood is part of an experimental series that Mendieta has done previously and also has a similar motif to another photograph published the same year called ‘Untitled (Rape Scene)’ which also features a lot of fake blood. The use of the fake blood automatically links the piece with themes of violence. From just looking at the photograph it has an underlying narrative of suffering. It is difficult to tell if Mendieta is meant to be a victim or the instigator. From where the camera is positioned it is almost like Mendieta is looking down at the audience putting her in a position of power.
Mendieta’s work falls under Contemporary art and Feminist art and reminds me of works by Francesca Woodman and Tracy Emin.
Piss Christ – 1987
Piss Christ by Andres Serrano is a photograph that depicts a small statue of Jesus Christ on a crucifix submerged in Serrano’s own urine. The piece won the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts “Awards in the Visual Arts” competition. The piece created a lot of controversies as many claimed it to be blasphemous and offensive but, Serrano who grew up a Catholic claims that that was never his intention and stresses its political ambiguity.
Its deeply saturated colors with its high contrast draws the audience in and almost makes it impossible to look away.
Although Serrano claims that this piece has no deeper meaning and is not meant to be a commentary on Christianity or religion it is difficult not to draw those conclusions. The photograph was displayed standing at 1.52m x 1.02m meaning that seeing it in person would truly allow the audience to observe and study the image. My first reaction was to find the image humorous and I instinctively saw the image as a critique of religion and even as going as far as to disrespect Christianity and the symbol of the crucifix. Analyzing this image from the lens of 2021 leaves me with the opposite meaning that Serrano intended. With the coronavirus pandemic, natural disasters, and the continuing fight for social change, for me Piss Christ is a commentary on how life is still very unfair for large groups of the population. And if someone believes in the story of Jesus Christ dying for our sins it could call into question if his death was worth it.
“a darkly beautiful photographic image… the small wood and plastic crucifix becomes virtually monumental as it floats, photographically enlarged, in a deep rosy glow that is both ominous and glorious.”Lucy Rowland Lippard “The Spirit and the Letter”. Art in America. 80: 238–245.