Visiting Artist Lecture 1-Natalie Prescott

Natalie Prescott

Visiting Artist Lecture: Janine Antoni



I really enjoyed the visiting artist lecture by Janine Antoni. Antoni was born and raised in the Bahamas so she grew up being pretty secluded from life outside of Bahamian lifestyle. This made her adventures outside of her hometown a must in order to figure out who she is and what kind of artist she is. It wasn’t until she realized that she never had to leave the Bahamas to figure this out that she figured out who she was as an artist. Antoni is an artist who works within the relationship of her body and the object.  Janine Antoni is an amazing artist of the 21st Century, known for her contemporary art pieces and performances. Her work is loud and full of ideas while still being subtle and beautiful. She works with her body in new and inventive ways. She has been known to literally move an audience. She is “obsessed with communication” and loves to work within the relationship of the body and the object. Antoni’s work is different and refreshing in comparison to her previous generations who were on the hand of artist communication. She always uses her body as the medium or tool to make her work. She dives into the artist’s position in the sense that she uses herself to produce her works. Unlike other artists, her ideas come to her only after she chooses an object or knows something specific that she wants to experience. I have studied Antoni’s work in previous classes and now that I’ve heard her speak of it I have a completely different opinion of her artwork. Knowing her reasons behind her works makes each one much more intriguing to me. As a photographer, I understand her theory of art making with knowing the idea and experience she wants to have but not necessarily knowing the outcome or what the final work will be. This is something photographers experience often: we know what we want to photograph or what we want to gain from the experience of photographing the subject(s), but we don’t always know what image we are trying to get, and that is, the beauty of our art most of the time.

My favorite work by Antoni is 2038, a photograph made in 2000 of her bathing in a cow trough while the cow tagged with 2038 on its ear drinks from the trough. The cow looks as though it is drinking from Antoni’s nipple. The irony of this photograph is beautiful and captivating, the fact that a cow looks as though it is drinking from the nipple of a human woman, that humans are weaned off of their mothers and transferred to cows milk. This is an amazing ironic idea that a cow drinks from a human mother and turned out a beautiful photograph.  Growing up in the Bahamas, there was only one cow on the island where Antoni lived so she has always had an obsession with cows. While showing is Sweden she found out of a dairy farm where she had to go see the cows. She wanted her experience with the cows photographed and she found it odd that the cow’s drinking trough was an old bathtub. This gave her the idea to bath in the bathtub where the cows drink. Surprising to Antoni the cows were just as interested in her as she was in them and this cow, 2038, came up to the trough to drink while she was in it and just in that time the photographer moved for a close up shot and got this unexpected photograph where it seems as though the cow is drinking from Antoni’s nipple.

I found the work Gnaw, done in 1992, to be very intriguing as well. Antoni poured 600 pounds of dark chocolate in a cube mold, and once it dried, she began to gnaw on it with her teeth. She also did this with 600 pounds of lard and this she also gnawed with her teeth as well. For Antoni this piece was about the relationship with the objects, the chocolate being an obvious choice to want to gnaw on but the lard not so satisfying to the taste buds. The gnawing went on for several weeks before the cubed objects were ready to be put on display for viewers. The left over chocolate and lard that Antoni spit out after gnawing was made into objects. Out of the lard Antoni made lipsticks and out of the chocolate she made the plastic chocolate candy holders that you see given as gifts for Valentine’s Day. This piece for me signifies the relationship between people and what they put into their mouths. Antoni being the artist that she is chose two complete opposites to gnaw on; chocolate and lard. She then turned the left overs of these two things into something that a woman uses to make themselves beautiful to in turn get the gift of chocolate from a loved one. Antoni’s gnawed cubes are completely different of the cubes made by the minimalist artist. It was not the cube that she was presenting to the viewer it was the relationship and experience she had while gnawing on the cubes that was relevant to this piece.

One of my other favorites by Antoni is Loving Care, a performance piece by Antoni and done right in the gallery in front of the audience. Antoni used her long hair as a paintbrush or “mop” as she called it, painting or “mopping” black hair dye all over the gallery room floor. With an audience watching her from the start, as she moves from the center of the room outwards the audience is literally pushed away from her and the work. I like this piece because it attracts the audience and then pushes them away even though they are still completely interested and watching from every access point into the room. The beauty of Antoni on the floor using her hair to mop black hair dye onto the gallery floor is what attracts me to this piece.

I find Antoni to be one of the most amazing artists of the 21st Century contemporary art world. Her relationship with her body, the art, and the object is utterly beautiful and innovative. When I first learned of some of Antoni’s works I thought she was a strange artist with strange tendencies and wants. I thought she had weird obsessions with using her mouth and body as tools in her art making. But I know now her thought process and her true obsessions are with communication, her relationships with the objects and her body, and her wants for an experience and not a perfect art outcome. This completely changes the way I once thought about Antoni and her work and makes me so interested in seeing what she thinks of next.

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