Janine Antoni: Lecture Review One

Danielle Austin

Visiting artist lecture: Janine Antoni



Janine Antoni was born in Freeport, Bahamas in 1964. She is a contemporary artist who works in different mediums such as performance art, photography, and sculpture. Antoni received her MFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1989 and her husband is a fellow RISD graduate. Often times in her work, Janine Antoni uses her body or parts of her body as a medium or a cast for projects.

I found Janine Antoni’s lecture to be incredibly interesting and enlightening. After seeing her work and learning about her process, I had always wondered about the concept behind it. I feel that hearing her concepts directly from her was the best and most personalized way to learn so much about such a distinguished artist.

Most of Janine Antoni’s work deals with the separation between a mother and child. Her piece “Cradled” is a good example of this theme. Antoni took a shovel from a construction site and proceeded to cut it in half. She then took one half of it and cast it into other shovels of various sizes. She stated in her lecture that even though a child becomes independent of their mother, there is still always a need to be held. “Cradled” shows this because this sculture essentially “holds” itself. Each shovel is a different size and each one fits into the one below it. Another one of her works that continues the theme of the separation between mother and child is her piece “Coddle”. In this photograph, Antoni is holding her own leg gently as if she were holding a small child. When looking at this picture, she briefly mentioned how it could be seen as the Madonna and Child. After saying this, she then goes back to state that it is not in fact the Madonna and Child but rather the Pieta.

Another theme in Janine Antoni’s work is her interest in objects that replace the body. Her piece, “Eureka!” is a good example of this interest. In this particular work, Antoni cast her body in lard inside of a bathtub. The tub itself, with her body shape missing was part of the piece but the lard that was displaced by her body was then molded into a large cube of soap. Antoni proceeded to mold this cube of soap with repeated washings and during her lecture she pointed out that washing this cube was much more personal than anything she had done before. She went on to explain that “Eureka!” was a project that began and ended with the body. Because the soap that was displaced from the bathtub was the same size as her body, she considered the block of soap her body as well. Antoni goes on to say that washing the block of soap was like washing the body with the body or like washing herself with herself. I found this part of her lecture incredibly interesting. I would not have thought about the cube of soap in that way and to see her perspective on her own work was profound and enlightening. A second piece she did in which she replaces the body with an object is her work “Lick and Lather”. In this work, she proceeded to cast her head seven times out of chocolate and seven times out of soap. She then continued to reshape the images in different ways. Antoni reshaped the chocolate casts by licking them and reshaped the soap casts by gently bathing them. She said that washing the soap casts was a strange process that made her feel as though she had a small child in the tub with her. Antoni then stated that because this object was her head and because she was bathing away its features, she felt as though she was slowly erasing herself.

Overall, I found Janine Antoni’s lecture was the best visting artist lecture I have ever been to during my time here. Not only was everything she said interesting, but also I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was very down to earth. Her lecture was very motivating for me because I felt although she is a very successful artist; she too has moments where she is completely unsure of what to do next. Until I heard her speak, I had always been concerned as to why I only have brief moments of clarity in my work. Janine Antoni’s lecture, for me, was quite possibly the most helpful lecture I have been to thus far in my college career and I think that hearing her speak was incredibly helpful for me and my work.

One Response

  1. I too found antoni’s work to be very interesting and when she spoke about it i found lots of clarity in her words. She did a great job explaining herself and made the room feel very intimate even though there was tons of people in the room. When she admited moments of nervousness and uncertainty that really made her approachable and seem human. Its great that you benefited so greatly from her leture!

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