Visiting Artist Reflection: Janine Antoni

Andrew Davis

Visiting Artist Reflection

ARTH 3539

Janine Antoni primarily uses her body as a sculpting tool. Janine Antoni opened her lecture by showing and discussing a work titled Ween. This installation was an early work in her career and explored objects that seemingly defined humanness through culture. It was a series of horizontally adjacent relief molds into the wall. From left to right the dialogue began with a mold of her breast, then her nipple, three separated baby-bottle packaged nipple reliefs (maintaining a horizontal presentation) and a last relief of the bottle nipple consumer packaging. This sculpture questions the transition concerning consumer products replacing natural processes. I was particularly interested in the conceptual presentation of this idea. The artist as a mother, experiences first hand, the convenience of the industrial world and products that both mimic and relieve humans from maintaining traditional evolutionary necessity (such as breast feeding). The point at which these inanimate objects serve animate purpose is interesting. The composition as a whole maintains a balanced presentation.  Janine Antoni’s breast is the largest relief. The packaging relief is a little smaller, but visually challenges and relates to the size of the artist’s actual breast. The three bottle nipples reflect a very similar size and shape to the artist’s nipple. However, more attention is drawn to the deeper values of shadow within the multiple industrialized nipples. The simplicity adds to the complexity and I was particularly drawn to the meaning behind this work.

Lick and Lather, produced in 1993 was another playful piece done by Janine Antoni. This project involved a series of self-portrait busts, cast out of chocolate and soap. Janine Antoni proceeded to bathe with the soap busts, and lick away the chocolate busts, physically altering the appearance of the casts. This installation and process speaks to how everyday activities such as bathing and eating shape our lives. Simple concept and technical execution attribute to the beauty of Janine Antoni’s art. Her work explores the transformative nature of the art process, physically and mentally involving her body in the development. Her choice of media was specific for this project, providing opportunity for change and conceptual depth.

My favorite piece of hers was Tear. Tear is presented as a battered wrecking ball accompanied by live video and sound. The video consists of a blown up, close up recording of the artist’s eye. The process involved a soft lead wrecking ball destroying a building. The sounds of impact were recorded and synched to match the video of the artist’s blinking eye. It is a conceptually layered installation. The wrecking ball speaks to an oxymoronic quality of being destructive yet vulnerable to the damage. The word tear is a play on meaning and pronunciation. On one side tears from eyes serve as a defense mechanism and reaction to emotional stimulation (Tears are used to protect the eye as well as express emotion). The wrecking ball symbolizes a destructive object but yet bears the scars of its destruction. The viewer serves as a subject in the piece too. By understanding the influences of destruction in relation to a human response, viewers can relate to and understand the meaning of tearing (as an act of deconstruction) and tearing (crying) and the many correlations between the two acts. I found her lecture very inspiring. Her use of paralleled ideas and media to support concept, represented a full cycle of thought that was both intriguing and relatable.

 

 

 

One Response

  1. Before reading this I was unaware of Janine Antoni’s work but now regret not attending her lecture. From your description of her work she sounds incredibly innovative and thought-provoking. You do a really good job of analyzing how her different mediums are salient to each piece and I was particularly intrigued by your interpretation of Lick and Lather. You are right that she took a relatively simple concept and created an intricate work of art from it. Everyday actions such as bathing and eating can say a lot about a person and I had not thought about that until reading this. By using her own body for this project, Janine shares a very intimate aspect of her life with the audience. Your descriptions of other works are equally well done and with no real knowledge of the artist I feel that your paper has given me a strong understanding of who Janine is and what her art is about.

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