Visiting Artist #1

Emily Potter

April 30, 2012


Artist Lecture #1

 Janine Antoni

Janine Antoni is a contemporary artist who mainly focuses on the idea of process.  She uses her body, hair, eyelashes, and even mouth as tools to perform these everyday acts to create her work.  Many of her works express not only process, but materiality, the body, her art historical background, and cultural perceptions of women.  Her well known works Gnaw and Love and Care are perfect examples of using her body, or parts of it and the cultural perceptions of women.  

One of her major pieces, Gnaw, 1992, consists of two 600 pound cubes, one made of chocolate and the other made of lard.  She used her mouth as a tool to shape the very large blocks.  Biting and licking, the process changed the way we looked at the objects.  From the chewed bites of chocolate and lard, Antoni then created heart shaped boxes from the chocolate and lipstick tubes from the lard.  Before entering the space to view the large cubes, Antoni set up a fake shop of the materialistic items, signifying the cultural expectations of femininity.  Antoni said in her lecture that there were several angry critiques from people stating that her destructive actions on these cubes were her personal responses to Minimalism.  She said that was not true; she just saw it was a funny thought toward the minimalistic cube.


I have studied about Gnaw before in past art history classes and have always enjoyed learning about it every time.  I am so drawn into her idea of process and how she uses her body as a tool for most of her work.  I believe that the personal connection of the body to a piece of art that one is creating defines the meaning of art and artist.   However, I cringe at the thought of her gnawing on the piece of lard, but it only increases the level of respect I have for Janine Antoni.  Not many people can bite away at a 600 pound cube of lard for the sake of art and expression.

Another personal favorite piece of Antoni’s is Love and Care, 1992.  Antoni uses her hair as a paintbrush and the brand Loving Care hair dye as her paint.  (Antoni said in her lecture that she chose the specific brand of hair dye because that was the only brand her mother ever used.)  Antoni then would dip her head in a bucket of the hair dye and begin to mop the gallery floor on her hands and knees.  Not only was she playing with the idea of abstract expressionism and femininity, but also power.  While she mopped the floor with her hair, she was pushing the audience out of the space using the theme of power, as well.


This piece has always been my number one.  However, at the lecture I learned for the first time that Antoni pushed the audience out of the gallery space.  Either I did not learn that part of the work in past classes, or I had forgotten, but it added more “spice” to my knowledge of the piece.  I think she conveyed the ideas of power, femininity and expressionism in the most ideal way.  I have not been so touched by any other artist’s perception of femininity as I have with Janine Antoni.  I strongly believe Antoni’s performances were brilliant.

When Janine Antoni was giving her artist lecture, I was star struck.  I have always loved her work and I never thought I would ever meet one of my favorite artists (mainly due to the fact that she is one of my many favorites who is still alive).  Her use of body awareness in her works, femininity, and power are overwhelming and extremely brilliant.  Her use of process and the ability to actually see the process is impressive and well thought out.  Janine Antoni has mastered the idea of process, as well as performance art.

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