Janine Antoni Review (Jasmine Lewis)

According to the art 21 website “Janine Antoni was born in Freeport, Bahamas, in 1964. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and earned her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. 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.” (art 21)  I was first introduced to Janine Antoni in my intro art classes last year and I remember her art really resonating with me. The experience of hearing her talk about her art was really eye opening and I particularly enjoyed how honest she was about the pieces and her process. She began by discussing her work ‘Wean’, which included negative impressions in the gallery wall of her breast, nipple, and a packaged baby bottle. In her discussion of the work she said she was interested in the stages of separation between the mother and child and how man made objects eventually replace the body. In many of her works, she focuses on the body and also various relationships, such as that between mother and child or with a spouse. She mentioned that she often works with her body because it is something that we all have and can relate to.

The lecture then moved on to the works that she is most known for, such as gnaw and loving care. Gnaw was a piece where she took 600 pounds of lard and chocolate and chewed off part s of the blocks over time. She then took the chewed parts and made a heart shaped box from the chocolate and lipstick from the lard. In the lecture she spoke about the process of simultaneously enticing and grossing out the viewer. I think it is particularly interesting when she spoke about her process. She was very honest about the fact that everything in art is not planned and ideas often evolve from projects or out of seeming failure. This aspect of the lecture was refreshing.

Another famous piece she spoke about was called loving care. She soaked her hair in hair dye and mopped the museum floor. This piece was about being the model and the master at the same time and using her body as a way to reclaim the space.

Many of the pieces she is known for often deal with subject matter around feminism, but I thought it was more interesting to hear about her other work. As Janine Antoni matured as an artist she seemed to focus a lot on relationships, including with her parents, spouse and daughter. The photograph titled 2038 portrays the artist lying in a tub with cows surrounding her and one in particular appears to feeding from her breast. She explained how the cow becomes a sort of surrogate mother. On the other hand it is hardly ever seen as an animal to us anymore.

Overall the presentation by Janine Antoni was very insightful and she focused much of the talk on her process and the evolution that occurs not only while making the art but also how it leads to the development of other works.  The talk was very personal and didn’t feel forced and I think it lent itself well to her subject matter.

Art 21


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