Transforming Ficus roots into sculpture
SFX: Understated music
It does kind of hover.
I mean, there is a little bit of a… an animate quality to it.
We’re listening to curators Caitlin Haskell and Sarah Roberts.
SFX: The buzz of insects, chirping of frogs—sounds that suggest a tropical swamp.
Ana Mendieta made this piece for a show that was staged outdoors in Florida…She tore these ficus roots from a tree that was somewhere on the site and bent them into this shape.
Ficus trees are pretty invasive. The roots have been known to strangle other trees. So they’re incredibly tenacious and very vigorously seeking sort of new avenues and thriving and clinging to life.
Are we looking at an angel or some kind of spirit?
Mendieta worked with shapes similar to this throughout her career. It’s an abstracted goddess form is how she thought of them. Loosely and abstractly referring to goddess forms from ancient cultures.
I think in some ways Mendieta allows us to read femininity into it by titling it, you know, Tallus Mother or —
“Stem Mother” is the translation.
It always looks like it might kind of fall apart at any moment.
… in the way that the branches are held together. They’re held together with glue.
Mendieta didn’t need the piece to last forever. She was more interested in the act of making something with her hands.
There’s something very strong about this piece but also something very fragile.
SFX: Music fades out
This is Tallus Mater (Madre Tallo/Stem Mother) made by Ana Mendieta from 1982. This large wall sculpture is formed from the roots of a ficus tree. It is over five feet high, and at its broadest, about two feet wide. The ficus roots resemble strands of long brown hair gathered into loose, fibrous ropes about four inches thick. The root-ropes have been shaped into three sections—two are bent to form the outline of a long, narrow heart. The third rope curves up from the notch at the top of the heart, forming a loop. This upper loop might be seen as a head, with the two humps of the heart forming shoulders; the entire sculpture in this way evokes a human form. A thick strand of roots runs down the center of the heart, then splits again, defining three open pockets within the outer shape. The whole thing slants slightly to the right.
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