Janine Antoni (Tony McKendry)

Tony McKendry

Janine Antoni

Despite the awesome opportunity that the University of Colorado’s visiting artist program affords us, most of the time the Artists that visit are lesser known and appreciated than some of the more “famous artists”; when I saw that Janine Antoni was on the roster this semester I got excited both because I am a fan of Antoni’s work, but also because I have been taught about her in almost every art class I’ve taken since my education at CU began. It was a pretty inspiring experience to personally hear her stories and motives behind her groundbreaking work, and see the artist in person that I’d seen so many times in textbooks and class films.

Antoni wasted no time in jumping into her extensive and influential work; she started at the beginning, with a piece of hers I had not heard of, titled Ween. The focus of the piece seemed to be very feminist, and focused on objects that can replace things like women and mothers; the dichotomies seemed never ending as Antoni spoke about this piece. The work itself featured a mold of the artist’s breast, her nipple, as well as “nipples” from consumer baby bottles. This transition from flesh nipple to artificial nipple illustrates the replacement of humans by artificial objects. Beyond Antoni’s interpretation of her piece, it carries a multitude of meanings; the artificial nipple represents the upbringing of the child by sources other than its parents. Motherly roles are something that I know Antoni takes very seriously from my past education on her. The nipples also represent a break from tradition; since the beginning of time mothers have shared a connection with their offspring through breast-feeding and the artificial nipple allows the parents to nourish their baby using formulas instead of breast milk, or to remove the physical act of breastfeeding from the equation. The baby can still feed on the mother’s milk, but without ever receiving it directly from her breast.

Antoni also addressed what I would consider to be her most famous piece, Gnaw. Anyone that has ever heard of Janine Antoni probably knows of this extremely famous and influential piece. Gnaw is a piece Antoni created in 1992 out of 600 lb cubes of Chocolate and Lard; using only her teeth, Antoni sculpted many forms out of both cubes. The chocolate was used to make heart shaped candy boxes often associated with Valentines day, the lard was used to create lipsticks; both of the objects were then displayed alongside the gigantic cubes of material from which they were created. Antoni has been quoted as saying that the “lard is a stand in for the female body, a feminine material, since females typically have a higher fat content than males, making the work somewhat cannibalistic.” Just like Ween, Gnaw can be interpreted many ways. Antoni addresses the lard as having a feminine connection, and the lipsticks created from it allude to that, but I interpret it farther than that. Females in today’s society seem to be very focused on their body image, and weight in particular; by choosing lard as a female archetype in this piece, Antoni addresses today’s females’ obsession with their looks, and by creating lipstick, a product commonly associated with the beautification process, out of animal fat (a material that would severely upset your skin if applied) she is breaking down some of these common dichotomies.

One Response

  1. I really wish I would have seen Antoni speak, she seems like a very knowledgeable contemporary artist with a feminist prose. Her pieces Ween and Gnaw seem like very inspiring and important comments on females in today’s society. I only wish you would have taken other intersectionalities into account when analyzing Gnaw.

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