Project Proposal: Embodying Ana Mendieta
In Talcott Mountain State Park sits King Philip’s Mountain, which combined with Talcott Mountain forms the Metacomet Ridge. These names mean little to the average hiker now, but they are there for a reason and are steeped in history. Near the top of the mountain off of a narrow trail lies King Phillip’s Cave. The first question I asked as I was climbing precariously to reach said cave, is who was King Philip? Research revealed a dark and fascinating history. King Philip i.e. Metacomet was a chief of the Wampanoags tribe who waged war on the English settlers. He supposedly was encamped on the mountain that now has his name, and watched an English settlement burn to the ground from the cave, which overlooks the valley. He eventually lost his war, his family was sold into slavery, he was dismembered and had his head mounted on a pike in front of Plymouth Plantation for twenty-five years (King Philip’s War). The work I am proposing is in response to this history and its thematic implications.
At the base of King Philip’s mountain, in a forested area where the ground is flat and has less rocks and richer soil, I will create a piece for the Silueta series. This Silueta will have its head and upraised arms facing towards the peak of the mountain. It will be made by planting young Partridgeberry plants into the shape of the figure. Partridgeberry or mitchella repens is a native species to Connecticut that flourishes on the shady forest floor very similar to the site I’ve selected. I would need approximately 30-40 plants to fill the body shape, which can be purchased from any greenhouse specializing in indigenous species of Connecticut. The ideal time to do this project would be in late spring, when the wild plants would first be growing. Partridgeberry is a ground vine that spreads out on the forest floor as it grows. In early summer two small flowers form on the end of each frond, that when each is pollinated by insects, fuse and form one berry (Stritch). As the Partridgeberry I plant grows, it will melt from the shape it was placed into a spreading mass.
This work can be completed by one person, with a trowel as the only tool. It should be done privately, as a meditative ceremony. The Partridgeberry was selected for this piece because of its metaphorical and practical qualities. It is a plant that benefits the ecosystem around it by producing berries that are eaten by birds and it is perennial, so it will hopefully provide berries for several years to come, and spread around the area in which I plant it. It was also used by the Native Americans to make a tea drank during childbirth, a fact that symbolically embeds it in the location I have chosen.
This piece is meant to signifying Metacomet and the whole bloody history that his story encompasses. The Silueta’s primordial goddess form references several pre-Christian cultures, including Native Americans, who respected and lived harmoniously with their environment so much more than the settlers who founded the country we know today. They left no evidence of their civilization, except for the places we named after them, and the documentation of how they used natural materials. The Partridgeberry is one of those materials, and its uses in childbirth come to now symbolize the rebirth of consciousness for the earth, and as something to find solace in the circular nature of life and death, corruption and healing. The shape of the Silueta dissolving as the vines grow can be associated with my intentions fusing with the natural world and becoming part of the ecosystem, and part of the history of King Philip’s Mountain. The Siluetas are usually dug out of the earth, but in this piece the holes are being dug and filled with life. This work will be judged a success if the plants continue to grow and flourish as intended, and as they theoretically should in the environment I have chosen. Art Work By Lauren Moran