Visiting Artist: Janine Antoni

Aly Nack

ARTH 3539-001

Visiting Artist Lecture: Janine Antoni


Janine Antoni was born in the Bahamas, and currently lives and works in New York, New York. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and earned her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work mainly focuses on the process, and uses select parts of her body — her mouth, hair, and eyelashes– as tools to perform everyday activities. “Antoni’s work blurs the distinction between performance art and sculpture. Transforming everyday activities such as eating, bathing, and sleeping into ways of making art. Antoni’s primary tool for making sculpture has always been her own body. She has chiseled cubes of lard and chocolate with her teeth, washed away the faces of soap busts made in her own likeness, and used the brainwave signals recorded while she dreamed at night as a pattern for weaving a blanket the following morning.” Although most of her work seems pretty straight forward, there is always a deeper meaning within each piece that is of sentimental value.

I was very excited for this lecture because I have seen a lot of Antoni’s work and learned a lot about it in many different classes while at CU. I was even more excited to hear her personally discuss it. Over all, the lecture was very intriguing. My pen just would not stop moving, and I definitely learned more about her work as a whole. I had seen most of the pieces she discussed before, for example “Loving Care”. This piece is known to be a metaphor for a paint brush and pigment being used to make art. Antoni dips her hair in dye and proceeds to get down on her hands and knees and “mop” the floor with her hair, covering the floor in hair dye. Because of this, the audience would move out of her way and was eventually forced out of the room, so she could complete her process. I think it is remarkable that even though Antoni is in such a vulnerable state while kneeling on the floor, the audience still seems to respect her personal space without any sort of communication. She also spoke about how this piece relates to her mother, in that she uses the same dye her mother uses, and focuses on the mopping motion that her mother always used to use on the kitchen floor. I also thought it was very intriguing that she mentioned how this piece specifically was devoted to Abstract Expressionism. She mentioned Jackson Pollack and how he violently applied paint, which is very similar to how she mopped the floor with her hair. Before I heard her discussion on “Loving Care”, I thought it was just a performance of her painting the floor with her hair, but with her insight I discovered there was much more going on within this piece.

She also showed a good amount of work that I had never seen before. For example, her piece “Slumber”. Because Antoni tends to work with her body and everyday activities, she wanted to find a way to work with sleep. At first she had no clue how she was going to document her own sleep, but she finally found a doctor that told her about an EEG machine that could record her sleep patterns. She thought this was a great idea and immediately decided this would best be viewed in a museum setting. The set up for this piece consists of a bed, blanket, EEG machine and loom. As she sleeps in the museum, the EEG machine records her rapid eye movements (REM) which correspond to her dreams within the sleep cycle. During the day shw uses the REM graph to weave a pattern into the blanket that she sleeps under using strips torn from her nightgown. After explaining the process of this piece she told us about her experiences during the piece. She said that many individuals would come sit with her and discuss random topics. She said that depending on the country she was in people would talk about different things. For example, when she was in America people would discuss the science behind the piece, where as in London the viewers focused more on literature. Also she said that in Zurich the viewers seemed a bit more timid and shy, almost like they were uncomfortable with the artist being present while they observed the piece. But while in Spain the audience had no problem, she said that they would come and sit next to her, touch her and the loom. Antoni then went on to explain how this experience with the audience change her view on art. She said that “Slumber made her much more open-minded and not as obsessed with pinning a meaning on everything. She also said that this opened her up more to discussing her work, where as other artist are not very open to this; although, she did said she has an obsession with communication. I was very pleased that she went into such great depth about this project, because in my opinion this is one of her most interesting pieces.

I appreciated that she ended the lecture by showing her most recent work from the Hayward Gallery. I think that it was outstanding that the University was able to have Janine Antoni speak for the Visiting Artist Lecture Series, since she is a very well known artist. I was especially thrilled that I got to hear her speak. I got to learn more about her work through hearing her speak and being able to see more of her personality. Although her work is very personal, I now see that it is much more relatable to the audience because she incorporates issues that are prevalent within our society. In all I really enjoyed the lecture, I got a lot out of it, and it really seemed to follow the in-depth discussion of work that the visiting artist lecture series strives for.


Works Cited:

One Response

  1. I wanted to originally see this artist as well, I like when artist’s show more recent work because it can allow you to see their growth throughout the process of their life.

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