Death of a Cuban-American artist

Nine months after the wedding of Carl Andre and Ana Mendieta, on Sept. 8, 1985, Mendieta fell to her death from her Manhattan apartment’s window on the 34th floor. Mendieta wanted to be known for her work and the path she was carving as a woman in the art industry, but her death ultimately overshadowed that.

The opening music of this podcast, “bum bim ba bum” continues for a moment, bouncing from one side of my headphones to another. Often, when music does this, I get excited. Hearing this opening, in a low tone, made me nervous with a realization of the seriousness of the podcast, Death of an Artist.

A Pushkin and Somethin’ Else production, Death of an Artist, a six-part podcast, covers the meeting of Mendieta and Andre, her up and coming career and the case of Mendieta’s death. Art historian Helen Molesworth casts an almost-forgotten light on Mendieta’s life and art career.

Mendieta was a Cuban refugee, who went to Iowa with her sister in the 1960s, before being sent to a Catholic orphanage that separated them. Mendieta’s pregnant mother and father stayed behind. As an artist in her early years of art school, she was very experimental.

Carl Andre, a sculptor, was known for his ability to mix two or more styles. As a minimalist artist, he was close to artists like Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd and Frank Stella. The three of them helped cover his bail.

Andre and Mendieta met in November 1979 at a packed gallery and were viewed as two artistic powerhouses. They represented many different symbolisms like male vs. female, insider vs. outsider and white vs. Latinx.

After Mendieta’s death, Andre was charged with murder. This tragic event caused heated debates and divided the art world. Andre tells two different stories. He told 911 operators that they had an argument and he followed her before Mendieta fell. He told the investigative officers that he was watching television after she had gone to bed, never mentioning an argument. With Andre being the only witness, his charge was dropped due to lack of evidence.

Molesworth is a strong storyteller with strong feelings towards Andre. In 2018, Molesworth was pushed out of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles after an argument with the museum director about showing Andre’s work.

Death of an Artist questions the artworld’s habit of separating the artwork from an artist. This happens with artists in other fields as well, such as J.K. Rowling. With heated debates about Rowling’s views on the LGBT community and her well-known series, Harry Potter.

As an avid reader, player, watcher and listener of all true-crime-related things, this I was hooked on this podcast from the start. Often I space out my podcast or episodes related to true crime to avoid burnout or losing interest. Death of an Artist, on the other hand, caught my attention so quickly that I had to keep listening in one sitting.

Death of an Artist breaks the silence on Mendieta’s death and brings her artwork back to the light. Was her death a suicide or did Andre murder his artist wife?


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