Mom and Dad
Janine Antoni b. 1964, Freeport City, Bahamas
Mom and Dad
Three silver dye bleach prints, triptych
24 x 19 7/8 inches (61 x 50.5 cm) each
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director's Council, 1996
Janine Antoni has crafted her personal aesthetic out of everyday activities and the objects that surround them. In particular she focuses on the rituals of the body, such as eating, sleeping, and bathing, as well as what would once have been called "women's work," such as mopping and weaving. A polyglot when it comes to mediums, Antoni has created sculptures, videos, photographs, and paintings, but the unifying substrate in her work has always been her body and the actions and contexts that encode it. In an early piece entitled Loving Care (1992), Antoni crept across a gallery on her hands and knees, dipping her long hair in a bucket of hair dye and painting the floor with it. Her most notorious piece, Gnaw (1992), involved carving two large cubes of chocolate and lard with her teeth and casting lipsticks and heart-shaped boxes from the spit-out remnants. For Lick and Lather (1993–94), the artist cast self-portrait busts in chocolate and soap, licking the former and washing with the latter until they resembled mere ghosts of her image.
Not all of Antoni's projects have involved such visceral materials and acts. Two photographic works have used her parents as sculptural material. In Mom and Dad (1994), Antoni made up each of her parents in the guise of the other, photographing them together in three different permutations with either one or both of them costumed in this way; Momme (1995) shows her mother sitting on a sofa, with the artist's foot peeking out of her dress, as if in some regressive fantasy. These pieces epitomize the darkly fantastic humor that pervades much of Antoni's work. She simultaneously sanctifies and satirizes, as when she upended the typical image of the nurturing mother with child in the photographs Coddle (1999) and 2038 (2000) by replacing the child with her own leg and a cow, respectively. Antoni's emphasis on her own body imbues her work with an air of autoeroticism or even narcissism but also harkens to the importance of autobiography in much 1970s feminist art. In staging a kind of return to that era, Antoni borrows much of its energy; by infusing that power into the banal rituals of the everyday, she shows just how deeply gendered they still are.