Janine Antoni (b. 1964) is a performance artist, sculptor, and photographer who often explores the transitions between making and finished product—a focus that results in sculptural installations that appear both static and revelatory of the artist’s creative process. Gnaw (1992) and Lick and Lather (1993) are two of her most well known works. In both, Antoni used materials in which she could leave lasting human marks: in Gnaw, she presented two Minimalist cubes—one of chocolate, the other of lard—that she had chewed away into deliberate deformity. In Lick and Lather, she ingested chocolate self-portrait busts and washed away soap ones into varying degrees of obscurity. These and other works—messy, unsterile—have caused viewers to re-envision the bodiliness of both abstract and figural forms; to acknowledge that feminine discretion (especially to keep body fluids hidden and their sources undisclosed) has long been a cultural expectation. Loving Care (1993) took these notions to an extreme, the piece consisting of the visual and physical remnants of Antoni’s sweeping of her dye-filled hair, like a paint brush but much more personal, across a gallery floor.
In approaching her work in this way, Antoni has adopted a project that has motivated many activist, feminist artists both of her generation and earlier: to acknowledge the feminine body and to celebrate it.
Janine Antoni - Lick and Lather (1993). Courtesy of Luhring Augustine Gallery.
Cameron, Dan. Janine Antoni. Special ed. Küsnacht Switzerland: Ink Tree; New York, 2000.
Cameron, Dan, Nicola White, and Brenda McParland. Janine Antoni: Slip of the Tongue. Glasgow: Centre for Contemporary Arts; Dublin: Irish Museum of Modern Art, 1995.
Princenthal, Nancy. "Janine Antoni: Mother's Milk." Art in America 89, no. 9 (Sept., 2001): 124-129.