Janine Antoni’s body of art

A young woman gnawing through 600 pounds of lard and chocolate, using her hair as a paintbrush or tightroping across the Bahamian horizon is something most would deem as just plain crazy.

Yet the Mike Lazaridis Theatre of Ideas at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics was bursting full of an audience eager to hear artist Janine Antoni speak in the ninth instalment of “Art Talk”.

Art Talk is a partnership between the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and Perimeter Institute that links the arts and sciences.

Janine Antoni, an innovative feminist visual and performance artist, was the ninth artist to visit the Waterloo Region and lecture on the process of art-making.

Antoni graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and earned her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1992, after graduation, Antoni presented her first show at the age of 28.

With a body of work spanning between performance art, photography and sculpture, Antoni explained that creating art is not always a structured process.

“I try to do one thing and then the piece shows me what it should be,” Antoni told the audience, adding that her pieces always reflect a similar theme in the end.

Antoni’s work focuses on viewing the female body as both an object and a subject.

While sensual and intimate, those consuming her work are also able to relate to it.

Antoni tries to focus primarily on transforming everyday activities such as eating, bathing and sleeping into ways of producing art.

She explains that these activities are intimate because the body is central in each activity. Using this concept, Antoni uses her body as the tool for creating her artwork.
Confronting issues such as materialism, process, the body, femininity and gender, Antoni has created groundbreaking artwork using all parts of her body, including her mouth, hair and eyelashes.

In her piece Love and Caring, Antoni uses her own hair as a paintbrush as she mops the floor of the gallery with black hair dye.

In doing so, Antoni consequently mops the viewers out of the room, creating a sense of vulnerability in her audience. Antoni also created an eyelash version, winking over 1,142 times across a canvas.

Most of Antoni’s work is left open-ended, or is constructed in different ways to provoke thought and dialogue.

“I leave the centre of the story out, instead of giving it all to you,” said Antoni.

Though she often receives harsh criticism towards the nature of her work, she explained that she never pays much attention to negative opinions.

Instead, she seeks comfort in the dedication of her viewers.

“It makes me feel like not such a weirdo when other people get it,” she laughed.