Visiting Artist Review: Janine Antoni

Alicia Baca

ARTH 3539-001

Kira Van Lil

Artist Review: Janine Antoni 

Freeport, Bahamas native Janine Antoni gave her lecture at the University of Colorado at Boulder on March 6th 2012. To be quite honest, I had indeed studied her work back when I was still a Studio Arts major, but her name had escaped my memory and it was was not until she presented her artworks that I finally remembered who she was. However, she came off so much more soft spoken and humble than I had imagined her to be in comparison to the strong messages that her works of art communicated.

One of the pieces that she spoke about that struck me the most was “Gnaw”, where she chewed on a large cube of lard and a large cube of chocolate over a period of time. I thought this really applied to her belief that that the artist should let the art make itself to a certain degree because it involved a natural bodily process of chewing and gnawing on food. I thought how she used the lard to create lipsticks and the chocolate to make chocolate boxes was interesting as well. I had remembered seeing this piece briefly in a textbook from one of my studio classes, thinking it was a little weird that the artist had just gnawed on some cubes made of edible substances, because the chewed cubes were the only image presented in the book. However, after seeing what she did with the pieces that she chewed off afterward it was so interesting how she created something so plain into everyday objects. What I found most interesting about this piece though was that she wanted to show how we use these things everyday. As she said “we use the lipstick to make us look beautiful so that we can receive the chocolates”.

She also mentioned that in her piece “Loving Care” she was interested in being both the model and the master at the same time and this idea of wanting to be both the art and the artist was interesting. I found her use of the body as the artists tool and the artists medium to be an aspect of her work that I really appreciated. It made her pieces that more personal and made them seem as though they had a much deeper meaning to them. I have always found art pieces that use the artists body as a medium to be interesting because I believe that they have a closer connection to the work, but at the same time, it reminds the audience that they are still human and not some sort of godly being in the way that many revere many artists of the past. I believe that it is one of the most humble ways in which an artist can create their artwork with.

Her description of her piece “Lick and Lather” were also quite fascinating as well. She again crossed this boundary that seems to exist between the artist and their work as she decided to cultivate a relationship with this piece that incorporated the everyday actions of washing oneself and eating. She also mentioned how she was interested in the fact that soap was made with lard and as a result, furthered this idea of having a personal relationship with her art by creating two classical style busts made out of chocolate and soap of herself and fed herself with herself and washed herself with herself.

It was also interesting to see how she took the everyday, something that many artists use in their art, and she took it to a much higher level. Whenever I have seen the works of artists who use the happenings of the everyday in their works, it is often just simply that, the everyday event, and nothing more. What made Antoni’s art far more intriguing was that while she did use common, everyday activities such as sleeping, eating, and bathing, her works were always filled with thought and conception. Even the simple, quick photos that she had of her daughter feeding her button with her spoon held a much deeper meaning to her as she saw as her daughter feeding her through the path that she once had done the same with when her daughter was still in her womb. This aspect of her work is incredibly beautiful and her ability to see such deep meanings in the everyday is truly something to be admired by fellow artists and art historians alike.

The aspect of her lecture that I found most interesting however was that when talking about her work, she was very calm, mellow, and humble. It was clear that she took pride in her work and the ideas that she wanted to convey, but she never had an air of boastfulness when she spoke. While this does not really relate to any piece in particular, I have always felt that this is an important quality for an artist to have. It makes the artist more relatable on a personal level. I just feel that that is an important aspect to have in an artists personality because while they are indeed capable of assuming roles like the artist as a shaman, as a prophet, as  leader, having this humble quality makes them easy to approach and does not put them on this pedestal.

Overall, her lecture was incredibly interesting and it was a pleasure to listen to her speak about her art. She was able to effectively communicate to the audience how important the use of the everyday was in her work on a personal level. While she is a very successful artist, her calm, soft-spoken demeanor show that while she is an artist filled with amazing ideas and concepts, she is a humble human being who desires to relate with the audience on a personal level.

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