Going to Great Pains

Going to Great Pains


Exploring the Feminist Potentials of Suffering in art by Ana Mendieta and Kiki Smith


“The body implies mortality, vulnerability, agency: the skin and the flesh expose us to the gaze of others but also to touch and violence.”—Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence

In her subject-defining work The Body in Pain, Elaine Scarry wrote that “the artist – whose lifework and everyday habit are to refine and extend the reflexes of speech – ordinarily falls silent before pain.”1 Scarry contends that the subject of bodily anguish is one that not only eludes language, but that dismantles it all together.2 Pain is at once the most clear and certain thing for its chosen client, but remains foggy and inscrutable when it encounters the “outside world.”3 Similarly, Cathy Caruth says of trauma that it inhibits truthfulness, where the more terrible the pain has been, the more difficult it is to speak of it.4 So much of our theory around experience, particularly the experience of our bodies, may fall short of fully conveying this most urgent, yet deceptive, feeling.

Not only is pain so often failed by language, but it is diluted by perceptions of identity. This essay deals with the subject of women’s pain and how it has been communicated and made legible—not through words, but art. Contemporary artists Ana Mendieta and Kiki Smith returned often to the tortured female body in their respective work, finding radical ways to render pain without wedding it to victimhood or apathy. What emerges is art that successfully expresses feminist theories of embodiment and suffering and that simultaneously endows its subjects with agency. Through a manipulation of pose, gesture, and medium, both Smith and Mendieta call attention to the gender dynamics of the body in pain, and fashion it into a symbol of resistance.

Between 1990 and 1992, Kiki Smith produced numerous sculptures of anonymous wax nudes in varying degrees of death, decay, and injury. My first encounter with these works was through a class on the feminist art historian Linda Nochlin, who writes in the essay “Unholy Postures” that Smith’s Tale engendered in her a kind of immediate collision with dread.5 Tale takes the form of a headless crawling woman who tows herself across the ground, leaving behind an extended tail of excretion from her rectum that lengthens out for about ten feet; per Nochlin, the sculptural woman on all fours palpably transforms the surrounding environment, rendering the gallery “into a desert of difficult-to-navigate space.”6

I saw similarities between Nochlin’s encounter with Smith and my own first brushes with Ana Mendieta’s tremendous body of work. I came to Mendieta through perhaps her most famous series, Silueta (1973-1978), with which I felt a sudden and incommunicable identification; in rendering her own body as both a permanent stamp in the earth and an absent, corpse-like figure, Mendieta outlined a simultaneous affect of both vulnerability and resistance. This current underwrites Mendieta’s interdisciplinary works in sculpture, performance, video, and self-portraiture, as she continuously makes her body both fearsome and fearful, resilient and abject, bringing to the surface a vision in which she is both (to put it simply) vanquished and victorious. 

Mendieta creates this effect most visibly in works where she inflicts pain on herself. Smith does not use her own body, but blank, faceless sculptures that are often shocking, as with Tale. Her period of working on these sculptures was backdropped by post-Reaganism and the HIV/AIDS crisis, while Mendieta’s earlier works coincided with the Vietnam War, Second Wave Feminism, and the Anti-Rape Movement, and later on, addressed histories of imperialism in her birthplace of Cuba. Despite their differences in background, medium, and method, both artists knit together sophisticated ideas about the body in pain and its power.

Specifically, Smith and Mendieta’s artworks brush closely against feminist philosophies of suffering and bodily experience. Valerie Fournier writes about the historical associations between femininity and the “un-masculinity of sickness and pain,” and locates traces of this notion in Scarry’s two criteria for describing the sensation of pain: the evisceration of the body and an overwhelming sense of its excess.7 Fournier mostly concentrates on evisceration, which she pairs with the notion of “lack” and the philosophical constitution of woman via negation.8 The notion of excess, however, also calls to mind the other most commonly encountered representation of woman as fleshy, repellant, and shameful.9 For example, Smith’s Tale is simultaneously spare and submissive, low to the ground on her hands and knees, while also spilling an elongated strand of bodily fluid.10 In holding up the idea of woman as lack/excess next to Scarry’s identical model of pain, Fournier suggests that “wounded women’s bodies lend their flesh to the idea of gender” and that gendering is done through the infliction of pain.11

Per Michel Foucault, the body is where discipline sculpts the self, and in Fournier’s estimation, this process has painfully gendered repercussions.12 The body is made to perform idealised femininity through a confluence of self-fashioning, dieting, exercise, and most importantly to this essay, gestures and behaviours. In her phenomenology of female body experience, Iris Marion Young theorizes the ways in which “feminine existence lives space as enclosed or confining […] and the woman experiences herself as positioned in space.”13 Young argues that female-identifying subjects position and move their bodies with a hyperconsciousness of their vulnerability, buttressing Fournier’s view of the kinship between femininity and pain. Young reads feminine motility as highly-controlled, risk-averse, self-doubting, and discontinuous with its surroundings; the withdrawn presence that she describes shows both an understanding of one’s body as excess, and taking action to erase its presence.14 

There is a line between how Young believes that women and girls discipline their bodies, and Scarry’s symptoms of physical suffering. Evidence of excess and effacement is widespread in the kinds of habituation analysed by Young; this closeness calls us to see how certain bodies might not only be imprinted by pain but default to anticipate it. If, as Judith Butler writes, “the skin and the flesh expose us to the gaze of others but also to touch and violence,” a heightened susceptibility to hurt must contour how one inhabits their own body.15 It is also crucial to recall that, as Gayle Salamon reminds us of in her appraisal of gender essentialism and phenomenology, we must consider “woman” as “not only a category that includes those beings that have the features, comportment, and bodies that resemble most other women but also a category that can include people whose histories might not mirror mine in any way at all, whose bodies may look entirely different from my own.”16 This is essential for many reasons; for our purposes, it reiterates that vulnerability is not experienced equally, and so an awareness of the risks to one’s body is augmented for people of colour, disabled people, queer and transpeople, or in the context of this essay, those who are less freely accepted into the category of woman, or for whom gender is one among other points of oppression.

In keeping with Salamon’s “possibilizing” view of gender and its continuous revisions, this essay offers an expandable theory of the relationship between pain, women’s bodies, and visual culture.17 In fact, rather than assuming gender as fixed to essence or anatomy, Fournier argues that gender is constructed through the infliction of pain, and Young’s reading of phenomenology may support this stance. Fournier and Young provide us with vocabularies of body language for reading the physical gestures and expressions of suffering in Smith and Mendieta’s art, and for locating its gendered edges.

Scraping Out

“To rid herself of the unwanted attention, Medana supposedly plucked her eyes out and threw them at her suitor’s feet; Triduna was slightly more inventive, and tore hers out with a thorn.”—Maggie Nelson, Bluets

Scarry writes that when pain takes over, it “systematically destroys anything like language or world extension that is alien to itself and threatening to its claims.”18 Through discontinuity with the material world, we lose the materials necessary to construct and express the Self.19 Fournier refers to this both as effacement and as gutting out, broadly gathering into its folds women’s experiences of being removed or excluded from spaces, their voices and feelings not mattering, and their bodies facing threats of destruction.20 This idea finds its physical expression in gestures which contort, confine, and hollow out the body, such as those employed in Smith’s Tale (and related sculptures) and Mendieta’s Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints). The body language of disengagement and shrinking also imparts the foreclosure of a continuous relationship with the material world, upon which self-actualisation may be conditional.

Referring to Smith’s Tale, Nochlin suggests that the posture of crawling “naturally signifies the abject” and thus the carriage of the subject’s body is of great import—particularly in sculpture, a genre historically defined by the graceful and heroic mode of Classical figures.21 Nochlin suggests that the typical poise of contraposto is not merely about advertising the body’s ideal proportions but even moreso, articulating its agency; the “choice” to not be a marble block suspended like a paper doll, but to shift the body’s weight from one foot to another, to create angles with the limbs and suggest how the viewer ought to see them, pronounces restraint, control, and power.  By contrast, the lowly body on her hands and knees in Tale is made all the more submissive. Nochlin similarly recalls Smith’s Virgin Mary (1992), which stands rigidly upright, not in contraposto, but presenting herself like a biology illustration; her surface is made of flayed muscle, “so close to the condition of meat,” an immobile, scraped out victim rather than dignified succorer.22 Smith’s sculpture is both mentally and physically “gutted,” becoming painfully and viscerally immaterial.23

The dominant physical state that presides over these sculptures is one that is reined in, submissive, and emptied of strength and autonomy. Smith materializes a condition of immobility that Young has associated with the reluctance of many women to “take up space.” Describing a study of boys’ and girls’ capacities for throwing a ball, she explains: 

…girls do not bring their whole bodies into the motion as much as the boys do […] Rather, the girls tend to remain relatively immobile except for their arms, and even the arms are not extended as far as they could be […] Reflection on feminine comportment and body movement in other physical activities reveals that these also are frequently characterized, much as in the throwing case, by a failure to make full use of the body’s spatial and lateral potentialities.24  

Young suggests that for those who occupy a marked female body, “a space surrounds us in imagination that we are not free to move beyond; the space available to our movement is a constricted space.”25 The debasement of Smith’s meagre sculptures—as they freeze, turn inwards, huddle, and retract from lateral space—evoke Young’s notions of withdrawl as a hallmark of feminine motility, as well as Fournier’s notion of being gutted. Smith’s statues express a painful submission to gendering as they withdraw from space, or as Fournier might suggest, become effaced from participation.26 

The body in pain has the feeling of being scraped out of material and thus, taken apart. In Mendieta’s series of self-portraits known as Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints) (1972), the artist evokes this idea while problematising the coherence of her body. Kelly Baum explains:

Untitled consists of two parts: a performance and its documentation. During the performance, Mendieta pressed a piece of glass against her face, breasts, back, torso, pubis, and buttocks—actions recorded in thirty-six color slides. At some point, Mendieta selected thirteen of the slides—all head shots—and sent them to a lab to be printed as black-and-white photographs. These comprise the set purchased by the Princeton University Art Museum in 2007.27

Deformation is Mendieta’s chosen grammar; what was “once beautiful” becomes folded into a hardly intelligible landscape of flesh, hair, and eyeballs. The compression of the artist’s face against the glass forms pools of displaced anatomy; a forehead collapses into a nose and an eye is barred shut as a liquefied cheek swells around it, resembling a face that has been battered and bruised.  

As Baum reaffirms, the subject of the self-portraits is violence.28 Mendieta manipulates her body as if it is her own sculptural media and painfully contorts it into poses that render it illegible. Just as Scarry contends that pain is the unmaking of the world, in Glass on Body, it is the unmaking of the body, wherein frames of Mendieta’s anatomy take on an aqueous quality and become unfamiliar—as if her flesh is more clay than solid.29 Illegibility is, according to Scarry, in part what defines pain— the assumed certainty of the body and the legibility of the face fall to pieces with Glass on Body; the only obvious fact is the artist’s (and audience’s) discomfort, as the stable outline of Mendieta’s body becomes erased.30    

Also in keeping with a feminist analysis of pain, Glass on Body foregrounds both of the essential components of suffering that Fournier isolates from Scarry’s book and underlines as gendered: effacement, as well as excess.31 In a slide of her chest, Mendieta twists her breasts in opposite directions against the glass until they are deflated and smeared like blotches of beige and pink paint. In Young’s view, “fetishized breasts are valued as objects, things; they must be solid, easy to handle… in its image of the solid object, this norm suppresses the fleshy materiality of breasts, this least muscular, softest body part.”32 Young suggests that the unwanted attention given to breasts offers an instrument of self-hatred and oppression.33 The reality of the body and its fleshiness is forced into unnatural, unattainable shapes, painfully seeking fidelity to the requisite, idealised, feminine body. In Mendieta’s pose against the glass, excess and effacement are bound up; the compression and tautening that impart a superfluity of skin are also acts of reduction and blotting out.


“The [tortured] prisoner experiences an annihilating negation so hugely felt throughout his own body that it overflows into the spaces before his eyes and in his ears and mouth.” — Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain

In its normative rendering, the female body is brimming with excess; the growth of breasts during puberty, the inflation of the abdomen in pregnancy, and the spate of bleeding from menstruation are all obvious ways in which femininity has presented itself as copious and obtrusive. Though we must be careful not to suggest that these events are inherent characteristics of femininity, they have historically signified it, and as such, elicited fraught and vexing attention. Even body parts that are not exclusive to women are deemed problematic on arbitrary, binary terms, as “female” breasts are subject to censorship while men’s may not be. Broadly speaking, this stems from women’s place as the “second sex,” wherein masculinity is the cultural baseline, and femininity, as an Other, is rendered overly conspicuous.

Feminized subjects, with an awareness of our perceived abundance, may tend to rigorously manage our bodies around how we are perceived and treated in public spaces. This is perhaps what makes Tale so jarring, as the sculpted subject suspends its obedience to the social order. In the same vein, Smith also sculpted Pee Body, a sullen woman who huddles over a puddle of yellow beads, and Train, who drips threads of red from the crotch.

Smith claims that her works—though violently corporeal—testify to psychological conditions, such as “the feeling of loss of control or of being unable to escape one’s mental baggage.”34 She has also referred to the body as both a trap and drain.35 The weighted choreography of the sculptures heave the body like an unendurable burden, expelling their insides as they push onwards. Tale is a body that is out of line and uncontrolled, superfluous in its corporeality. 

Scarry writes that the body in pain becomes like an “enormous vermin” and so not unlike the flesh of woman, it offends.36  Pursuant to anthropologist Mary Douglas, the body and its maintenance act as proxies for social and political governance, wherein uncleanliness is symbolic and determined socially, so that “dirt offends against order.”37 Bodily orifices stand for “points of entry or exit to social units” and as such, an ideally managed body persists as a symbol of “ideal theocracy.”38 Civilizing practices—such as those which Smith’s sculptures abscond—are used to organize society around bodies that are the least ‘obscene’ to dominant systems and knowledge; in their offensive superfluity, female bodies are a threat to this regime and therefore must be controlled. Julia Kristeva adds that “filth is not a quality in itself, it applies only to what relates to a boundary.”39 The mess of fluids on the immaculate gallery floor are not merely urine, blood, and feces, but are symbolic of transgression. As the female body so often does, these unruly figures offend the order of society; they are pollution. Their pain is part of a hyperbolic, emphatic too-much-ness. Smith represents the female body not to please or titillate the viewer, but to reveal the body’s imperfect “processes, its failures, and its traumas.”40

Like Smith, Mendieta had a fearless penchant for taboo and for confronting her audiences with bodies at their most abject. Mendieta’s central achievement was her capacity to embody both pain and power simultaneously, and Self-Portrait with Blood (1973) is no exception. In six photographs, Mendieta displays her twenty-five-year-old face dripping with blood that falls in arches and freeways along the topography of her skin. The collar of a white waffle-knit jumper is quietly stained as droplets creep down towards her sternum. In the second-to-last photo, her eyes are half-shut, giving the impression of puffiness, of slipping hazily in and out of consciousness. As each image apprehends her face from a different angle, the series echoes police evidence photos of domestic violence survivors.

As Douglas suggests, blood is symbolic of seepage and the uncomfortable crossing of boundaries. In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir writes that menstrual bleeding “inspire[s] horror in the adolescent girl because they throw her into an inferior and damaged category.”41 In Young’s view, the association between women and their “shameful” periods, which mark them as inferior, incurs a disciplinary regime of managing their bodies around the discomfort of others, anxiety about hiding their blood, and potential alienation from one’s own body.42 Thus, bleeding habituates another mode of hypervigilant self-discipline, both in terms of hygienic concerns and concerns about social inferiority. In Self-Portrait with Blood, Mendieta confronts viewers with her bloodied body. Blood carries with it multifold connotations of reproduction, sexuality, violence, and trauma; in Mendieta’s self-portraits, each of these associations may overlap and reveal their interrelatedness.

What makes the blood in Mendieta’s portraits even more ambiguous is their lack of any clear source. Scarry brings up the wound as a sight of signification on which our vocabulary seems to lean; when we describe our hurt, she notes how we put it in terms of a “hammer coming down on my spine,” or “sticks poking through my skin,” even when there is no such weapon and the skin may very well be unbroken.43 Lacking a visible referent for harm, we scramble to make our internal suffering believable through language that evokes more legible, palatable injuries. As such, when the wound is a cornerstone of pain-related discourse, it may become simple to overlook and misunderstand forms of suffering that are wound-less. Mendieta douses herself in blood, but we do not know where it is coming from; the origin of the injury is not a singular, stable, or legible laceration.  There is no entry or exit wound—it is a consequence of the body itself, or to draw from Fournier, what one is subjected to because of how the body is disciplined.44

Self-Portrait with Blood, as well as much of her other work from this period that deals in the gory and abject, forces us to visualize overlapping harms; the suffering of the body is a physical experience and a social one, calling to mind the many traumas that shaped Mendieta’s artistic vision. She and her sister Raquelin fled Cuba for the United States as children, landing in Iowa where they were raised in exile, often subjected to racist and sexist bullying by their classmates as they were shuttled between orphanages and foster homes.45 While Ana was in university, Raquelin was physically abused by her husband, and in the same period, a university classmate was brutally raped and murdered on campus.46 The displacement of Mendieta’s body due to violent political conflict transferred her from one state of vulnerability to another, while the destruction of women’s bodies around her in Iowa made violent misogyny a continuous reality. What she recognizes in her artworks is the inseparability of these violences and the ways in which they are terrible sources of pain—imperialism, misogyny, and racism create agnosing wounds, collected over a lifetime. Mechanisms of gender, race, and nation make all kinds of unseen painful marks, or what Kaja Finkler might term “life’s lesions” borne of the social, moral, and cultural struggles that play out in the (female) body.47

The bleeding woman, particularly one who bleeds from no discernable wound, conveniently recalls the hysteric, a women inflicted by a confluence of anguish, fear, and trauma set off by covert events, suffering from a condition so confounding and prevalent in the nineteenth century that Elaine Showalter suggests “hysterical” nearly became synonymous with “feminine.”48 In particular, the case of Emma Eckstein, a client of Freud’s in the 1890s, stands as a reminder of the association of disobedience with women’s bleeding, unruly bodies. At the age of twenty-seven, Eckstein was analysed by Freud for stomach ailments, menstrual irregularity, an interest in masturbation, and other so-called hysterical symptoms.49 Peggy Phelan recounts that under the influence of Wilhelm Fliess, Freud believed that a nose operation would cure Eckstein of her transgressive behaviour and regularize her periods.50 In 1895, Fliess visited Vienna and operated on Eckstein’s nose, but several days after the surgery, she was still bleeding and noticed a “fetid odor” coming from her nose, not to mention that she was suffering from significant pain.51 Phelan notes that Freud waited a week before calling a second doctor to see her, who upon reopening the patient’s nose, found a half-meter of gauze that had been left lodged in the nasal cavity for fourteen days, preventing healing and causing a geyser of blood when extracted.52 In a misogynist medical system, Eckstein’s lack of a visible wound eclipsed her repeated testimony of severe pain, and femininity marked her body as disposable. What is most compelling for Phelan however, is how Freud frames this life-threatening ordeal in his letter to Fliess:

The scene of Emma Eckstein’s physical trauma was overtaken by Freud’s fear of Fliess’ interpretation of it. [Freud:] “That this mishap should have happened to you,” that is, to Fliess and not to Eckstein.53

For Freud, the fear of his male colleague’s injured reputation overtakes the fear of the injury that they have caused their young female patient.  Eckstein’s behaviour was punished by invasive damage and pain, the consequences of which are seen as abrasions on her male aggressors and not on her suffering body.  Phelan cleverly calls this case a “leak,” simultaneously referring to Eckstein’s abundant periods, the hemorrhaging of her nose, and Freud and Fleiss’ exposure to scrutiny.54 The leakages of women’s bodies, like the cracking of their forced composure, are simply too much, too excessive, and so must be treated as something to hide. Likewise, when Eckstein’s body stubbornly refused to cooperate with normative codes of conduct, it was violently and painfully disciplined by male authority figures. 

Phelan’s characterisation of the “leak” reminds us of bleeding women’s historic struggles to be taken seriously, or to have their blood give evidence to pain and not some other, unrelated ‘shortcoming.’ This same difficulty can be located in the notion of woundless suffering. Mendieta gathers these two highly contentious representations of pain into Self-Portrait with Blood, initiating her own kind of confrontational testimony to the complexities of suffering, to its slipperiness, and the difficulties of its legibility in a world where it is constantly contested. 

In its ‘offensiveness,’ women’s pain is perceived as an attack or abrasion primarily on others and not on the one who actually endures the suffering. As such, efforts are made to cover up the pain, the leak, the blood. Women’s opportunities to express their pain may be foreclosed by perceptions of their bodies’ excessiveness, which offends against the normal order of society. In rendering expressions of pain that are intentionally gory, disgusting, and inflammatory, Smith and Mendieta embrace excess as a juncture for disarming audiences and complicating presiding understandings of what pain ought to look like.

Vulnerability vs. Agency

In the aforementioned artworks, effacement is expressed through a physical withdrawl, a retreatment into oneself or into the background. Excess is defined by a leak, a “letting go,” or a “pushing out.” But neither of these modes are necessarily helpless or pitiful; unlike the traditional characterisation of women as receptacles of pain subjugated by their embodiment, these works of art attest to the embodied pain of being marked as female, and thus differentiated, marginalised, and compartmentalised. The selected sculptures and images visualise an augmented account of this experience and the wounds that it scores into the mind and flesh, thus posing a challenge to predominating representations of the suffering woman.

Furthermore, the artists do not propose suffering as synonymous with passivity or victimhood, but offer visions of working through and against pain. Smith’s sculptures—in their unseemly leaning and huddling—reject Classical contraposto and contrived gallery refinement. Train is menstruating, leaking historically feminine taboos into a place of high culture, and rejecting shame. Against all odds, Tale is moulded partially in motion; its crawl has forward trajectory and consequently, ambition. That the body is permeable and messy does not preclude it from lifeforce and will; in fact, the body’s survival hinges on these hidden practices.55 Smith’s subtle gestures of agency force audiences to acknowledge both the frailty and pain of the sculpted subject as well as their resistance to that pain. In recognising the sculpture as something active, present, directional, and forward, they are endowed with a kind of agency not always afforded to renderings of the abject, and in particular, to abjected women.

Likewise, in Glass on Body, Mendieta’s hand can be seen holding the pane against her ear at the edge of the frame. In Baum’s opinion, Glass on Body performs the management of the body and the degree to which women will suffer in order to achieve idealised beauty.56 Baum notes the “headshot” cropping of the portraits, satirizing the modeling industry or other roles for women that preface appearance. Mendieta also produced concurrent self-portraits such as Untitled (Facial Hair Transplants) (1972) and Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations) (1972) in which she was obviously critical of the idealisation and dominance of white femininity and the pain incurred by aspiring to it.57 Baum’s reading of Glass on Body concurs with Fournier’s argument that the inscription of gender hurts; however, Glass on Body speaks to Mendieta’s capacity to not only materialize said pain, but to climb out from underneath of it and become both the agent of manipulation and its object, exercising bodily autonomy. Mendieta maintains authority over her physical body outside of the white male gaze; in her monograph on the artist, Jane Blocker posits that “Mendieta’s work taken as a whole presents the female body but takes it back.”58 Mendieta complicates the duality of hypervisibility/invisibility in which the female body has so often been trapped, so that her art unsettles the expected ways in which one performs identity or occupies space. Young argues that feminized motility is defined by the experience of one’s body being watched; Mendieta skirts this by representing her body in ways that call attention to the objectifying nature of the gaze and to its violent consequences.59

Fournier begins her essay by challenging the canon of long-held representations that figure women as ‘walking wounded,’ doomed by their bodies.60 Her subsequent arguments support the thesis that any such links between femininity and pain are consequences of gendering and not gender, and that the reinforcement of woman as lack/excess thrives on the classification of pain as feminine.61 The works of art discussed above build upon this framework by helping us to uncover underlying social discomforts with women’s pain, signifiers of suffering that may be conditioned into women’s everyday gestures and movements, and the symbolic power of representations of pain that do not pathologize their subjects, but underscore their will to resist.

  1. Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 10.
  2. Scarry, The Body in Pain, 4.
  3. Scarry, The Body in Pain, 4.
  4. Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996) quoted in Griselda Pollock, Differencing the Canon: Feminist Desire and the Writing of Arts Histories (London: Routledge, 2006), 108.
  5. Linda Nochlin, “Unholy Postures: Kiki Smith and the Body,” in Women Artists: The Linda Nochlin Reader, ed. Maura Reilly (Thames & Hudson), 290.
  6. Nochlin, “Unholy Postures,” 291.
  7. Valérie Fournier, “Fleshing out Gender: Crafting Gender Identity on Women’s Bodies,” Body & Society 8, no. 2 (2002): 55.
  8. Fournier, “Fleshing out Gender,” 56.
  9. Fournier, “Fleshing out Gender,” 56.
  10. Note: The prescription of gendered pronouns to these sculptures is inherently problematic and difficult to avoid. My decision to use “her” pronouns and designate them as “women” falls in line with how they have been described by art critics and historians, which has not been disputed by the artist, who has also referred to her sculptures generically as either male or female by anatomy. As discussed later, the notion of expandability applies here, in remembering that gender is not static, stable, or necessarily contained by this prescription or by anatomy.
  11. Fournier, “Fleshing out Gender,” 56.
  12. Fournier, “Fleshing out Gender,” 56.
  13. Iris Marion Young, On Female Body Experience: Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 39.
  14. Young, On Female Body Experience, 35.
  15. Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (Verso Books, 2006), 36.
  16. Gayle Salamon, “Gender Essentialism and Eidetic Inquiry,” in Rethinking Feminist Phenomenology: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives, ed. Sara Cohen Shabot & Christinia Landry (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018): 45.
  17. Salamon, “Gender Essentialism,” 46.
  18. Scarry, The Body in Pain, 55.
  19. Fournier, “Fleshing Out Gender,” 64.
  20. Fournier, “Fleshing Out Gende,” 62-3.
  21. Nochlin, “Unholy Postures,” 291.
  22. Nochlin, “Unholy Postures.”
  23. Fournier, “Fleshing Out Gender,” 68.
  24. Young, On Female Body Experience, 32.
  25. Young,  On Female Body Experience, 33.
  26. Fournier, “Fleshing Out Gender,” 68.
  27. Kelly Baum, “Shapely Shapelessness: Ana Mendieta’s Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints—Face), 1972,” in More than One: Photographs in Sequence (Princeton University Art Museum Series), ed. Joel Smith (Princeton University Art Museum, 2009), 81.
  28. Baum, “Shapely Shapelessness,” 81.
  29. Scarry, The Body in Pain, 22.
  30. Scarry, The Body in Pain, 4.
  31. Fournier, “Fleshing Out Gender,” 57.
  32. Young, On Female Body Experience, 78-9.
  33. Young, On Female Body Experience, 80.
  34. Eleanor Heartney, “Thinking Through the Body: Women Artists and the Catholic Imagination,” Hypatia 18, no. 4 (2003): 14.
  35. Lynne Tillman, “An Interview with Kiki Smith,” The Believer, Issue 13 (2004)
  36. Jean-Paul Sartre quoted in Scarry, The Body in Pain, 31.
  37. Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge, 2015), 2.
  38. Douglas, Purity and Danger, 4.
  39. Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: an Essay on Abjection. Translated by L.S. Roudiez. (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1982): 69.
  40. Susan Tallman, “Kiki Smith: Anatomy Lessons,” Art in America (1992): 153.
  41. Simone de Beauvoir, “Childhood” in The Second Sex, Translated by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany Chevallier (First Vintage Books, 2011), 329.
  42. Young, On Female Body Experience, 98.
  43. Scarry, The Body in Pain,15.
  44. Fournier, “Fleshing Out Gender,” 56
  45. ANA MENDIETA: Fuego De Tierra, Avery Fischer Library at NYU, Women Make Movies, 1987.
  46. Kaira M. Cabañas, “Ana Mendieta: “Pain of Cuba, Body I Am”,” Woman’s Art Journal 20, no. 1 (1999): 12.
  47. Kaja Finkler, Women in Pain: Gender and Morbidity in Mexico (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994), 19.
  48. Elaine Showalter, “On Hysterical Narrative,” Narrative 1, no. 1 (1993): 24.
  49. Peggy Phelan, Mourning Sex: Performing Public Memories (London: Routledge, 1997), 106.
  50. Phelan, Mourning Sex, 106.
  51. Phelan, Mourning Sex, 106.
  52. Phelan, Mourning Sex, 107.
  53. Phelan, Mourning Sex, 106.
  54. Phelan, Mourning Sex, 113.
  55. Roxanne Runyon, “Encounters with the Abject: Kiki Smith’s Vulnerable Bodies,” Spaces Between 1, no. 1 (2013): 9.
  56. Baum, “Shapely Shapelessness,” 83.
  57. Baum, “Shapely Shapelessness,” 83.
  58. Jane Blocker, Where is Ana Mendieta? (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012): 34.
  59. Young, On Female Body Experience, 39.
  60. Fournier, “Fleshing Out Gender,” 55.
  61. Fournier, “Fleshing Out Gender,” 57.
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