Janine Antoni– Samuel Lane

Janine Antoni’s highly anticipated appearance at the Boulder campus was sufficiently fulfilled by her detailed lecture and personable behavior; it’s safe to say that everyone appreciated her effervescent and likable personality.  Antoni focused her presentation on some of her critically acclaimed pieces as she thoroughly explained her thought process behind some of her more abstract work.  Antoni’s approach to her multi-medium work is very conceptual and explores themes such as, relationships, gender identity, and materiality.

Perhaps one of Antoni’s most coveted photographs, 2038, illustrates the significance of relationship as a cow drinks from a tub that Janine Antoni bathes in.  It appears at glance that the cow is drinking from Antoni’s nipple as she leans inward, toward the cow, inviting him to drink.  This photograph suggests that Antoni is nursing the cow, symbolizing the importance of relationships.  During her presentation, Antoni elaborated on the notion of children weaning off their mother’s breast milk and developing a newfound relationship with the cow’s milk—an imitation of a substance we rely on during growth and development as an adolescent.  In a sense, the animal now becomes a “biological machine” to feed humans.

Much like 2038, Antoni’s self-portrait sculpture, Lick and Lather, emphasizes relationship, specifically the relationship we have with our physical appearance, and the problem “I have with looking in the mirror and thinking, ‘Is that who I am?’” (Antoni)  This series of sculptures is a replica of Antoni’s face, 7 of which are made from soap and 7 made from chocolate.  Antoni used the soap sculpture to wash and the chocolate sculpture to lick and taste.  Both licking and bathing demonstrate gentle and loving acts, but what’s most fascinating is that she is slowly erasing herself through the process.  This piece was inspired by historical sculptures as Antoni consciously recognized that she would be presenting these sculptures in Venice, a country that houses so many historical portraitures.

Antoni presented a photographic triptych she took early in her career entitled, Mom and Dad, of her mother and father dressed as each other.  She explained during her lecture that these overly staged photographs reveal “gender identity.”  Humorously, Antoni expressed her father’s discomfort as he posed in drag.  As she explained while discussing the triptych, that although her parents may embody certain stereotypes in terms of their sexual identity, their personalities are far more complex.  “What seemed most striking to me was that after forty years they had become a kind of unit, sometimes in spite of these gender roles” (Antoni).  In a sense, this is another self-portrait by Antoni because it reveals herself as a biological composite of her mother and father.

One of Antoni’s most celebrated pieces, Gnaw, confronts the idea of materiality as she experimented with 600 lbs of chocolate and 600 lbs of lard.  In Gnaw, Antoni spent months literally gnawing and chewing on the chocolate and lard masses.  With the excess bits, Antoni created another piece where she constructed chocolate and lard into a chocolate box and lipstick.  With this piece, Antoni literally faces her material as she uses her body as a tool to carve the massive cube-like-structures, instead of using a hammer and chisel.  This piece seems to channel minimal art and as Antoni states, “Minimalism really introduced fabrication to us, and what I was taught by Minimalism is that not only the material had meaning, but the process in which it was made” (Antoni).  As chewing the lard cube wasn’t necessarily a pleasant experience for the artist, Antoni relies on the viewer to empathize for the long and tedious process she had to endure.  Much like Antoni’s Lick and Lather, the bite demonstrates both an intimate and destructive effect.

I was most pleased to have attended Janine Antoni’s lecture.  I see Antoni as a very empowering artist and individual as she captivates the idea femininity in most of her works.  Her spontaneity and daringness has inspired me, as an artist, to explore such concepts discussed by Antoni in her truly memorable presentation.



Janine Antoni, Lecture, University of Colorado at Boulder, March 6, 2012.

One Response

  1. Your paper was awesome, it went into depth about each piece discussed and offered a good sense of the artist herself. I would have liked to know a bit more about your personal opinions though although generally the tone seemed positive and knowledgable. You are great writer also, the paper flows very well which made it fun to read.

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