Updated: Feb 11

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The Descension is a pastel drawing by Isis Rodriguez depicting a masked woman descending into darkness with a cartoon.
The Descension 33"x66" by Isis Rodriguez 2007


I first discovered Ana Mendieta when I began my investigation of spiritual art in the early 2000's. The book, "Ana Mendieta Earth Body" by curator, Olga M. Viso from the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden 2004, is a haunting example of an artist who died young exploring the depths of her own spiritual desires on the banks of all places, Iowa, an agricultural state that is not typically known for being a center of art. And yet this artist thrived, creating a body of work that makes me shiver and feel my ancestors rumbling around me.

When I was developing my archetype of a masked woman, in 2007, I stumbled upon this book which sucked me into her interpretation of the modern feminine divine in relation to the ancient. Suddenly, I saw a new feminine lexicon of rituals and the divine.

At the time, I was undergoing a big shift in my life. I was a disillusioned and deeply conflicted artist living in San Francisco California who was hit hard by the recession. I desperately wanted to find peace and harmony and found myself drawing a masked woman.

Tree of Life is a performance by Ana Mendieta who covers her body with mud and stands against a tree.
Tree of Life by Ana Mendieta

The development of this woman was based on a personal mythology in which a wounded woman protesting shame and in a process of self transformation. I was in an artist residency in Oaxaca Mexico at the time.

Death is a dark occasion in Mexico. Five hundred years ago, funerals involved burials with dogs and other items which assisted the deceased into the the "inframundo", meaning "underworld", and sometimes they were given tasks to complete, in order to ascend into the heavens. Depending on how they died, and or their status, they could automatically ascend to the heavens without even entering the underworld. It's a complex journey which fascinates me in the redefinition of spiritual art.

The white cartoon is a spirit referencing a discovery of a child like moment which is why it emerges out of her umbilicus. In this case the cartoon is also a symbol of something unreal or fantastical.