Visiting Artist Lecture: Janine Antoni

Shelby Simpson

Visiting Artist Lecture

Janine Antoni

Janine Antoni is a Bahama’s born artist, who received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and earned her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1989.  Antoni is considered by many to be a “smart artist.”  Her work is performance and sculpture based, where she considers everyday activities, such as bathing, eating,  sleeping, when making art.  Antoni’s predominant medium in all of her works, is her body.  She makes molds of her bust out of lard and chocolate, records her eye movement to create a drawing,  using her hair to paint a gallery floor in a live performance, and even videotapes herself walking across a tight rope in her hometown.

Antoni spoke at in Boulder, Colorado, during the Visiting Artist Lecture Series, on March 6th, 2012.  She began her lecture, discussing one of her first successful pieces as a young artist.  The piece Wean, created in 1989-1990, is a row of negative impressions of her breast, her nipple, and a latex nipple from a baby bottle.  The piece addresses the stages a young life goes through while being separated from his or hers mother, and the objects that replace the body.  The piece uses negative space of the wall, in-order to represent the absence of the body.

In one of Antoni’s most well-known works, Gnaw (1992) she chews and lips two 600 pound cubes, made out of chocolate and lard.  From the chocolate and lard that she chewed, she made chocolate boxes out of the chocolate, and lipsticks out of the lard.  Antoni comments on the minimalist cube, by making it out of material that one consumes, and then chewing on it.  Antoni talks about “the body by the residue it ledt on the object.  And so to bring these two ideas together, and use my body as the tool.”

She uses her mouth as hammer or chiseling tool, to reflect on everyday activities, like eating.

One of Antoni’s more famous performances, is her piece Loving Care, (1992)  where she paints a gallery floor, with Loving Care hair dye as paint.  As she dips her head in a bucket of hair dye, on her hands and knees, she once again explores how her body can be use as a tool in making art.  While performing this piece, Antoni thinks about abstract expressionist painters, like Jackson Polluck.  She paints in a calming meditative way, while people slowly gather to one side of the space, so that they do not disturb the artist during her practice.

One of my favorite pieces of Antoni’s is, Slumber (2000) where she sleeps for eight days and eight nights in a gallery space.  During the eight day performance,  Antoni lays in a bed sleeping, while there is a electroencephalograph machine is attached to head, that records her rapid eye movement.  The eye movement corresponds   to her dreaming. From this information, a loom weaves a blanket out of the pattern of her dreams.  Antonie perform this piece in seven different locations, getting several different elaborations of her performance.  Antoni is interested in being in her artwork, while it is being made, and then also having people experiencing and interpret it all at the same time.

Another piece that I found provoking is the piece, Conduit (2009) The piece is a copper sculpture with urine verdigris patina with a digital print.  I find this piece to be very hilarious, and completely different from her older pieces.  I also find her process of finding an object, and then recreating it into a piece of art.  Her quest of finding a specific building that would correspond to her gargoyles anesthetic is also a funny concept.  She wished to find a place such as a religious building, where she would then urinate off of.

Antoni is a contemporary artist, whose work is focused on a process of ideas.  Her pieces are limitless as she works with a plethora of materials, but in some shape or form she incorporates her body.  Her creativity and imagination is extensive, yet she always finds new ways of including different materials.


1 “THE COLLECTION.” Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <|A:AR:E:1>.

2 Responses

  1. This paper is well written and I enjoyed the read. I also attended this lecturer and I thought that your reaction to her “Conduit” work was exactly how I interpreted the piece.

  2. well written paper. I enjoyed reading a few of your interpretations. Antoni’s “Slumber” is one of my favorite pieces too, as it appears very scientific and methodical. i’m glad that you enjoyed her lecture– she was definitely a wonderful speaker!

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