Since the 1990s, Janine Antoni has played a prolific role in performance and installation art. Using her body as the primary tool for making her work, Antoni has drawn with her eyelashes, painted with her hair, and sculpted blocks of lard and chocolate with her teeth. She also created soap-carved self-portraits by bathing with them, and used the brainwave signals recorded from her dreams as a pattern for weaving a blanket. Antoni’s work explores the concept of identity through a myriad of tools and mediums, as she methodologically searches for herself hidden beneath the layers. Through her use of intimate, everyday materials and experiences, she blurs the distinctions between performance and sculpture and conceptual and even feminist art.
Mom and Dad, 1994, features three photographs of Antoni’s parents in which they are made-up to look like each other. By blending her parents’ appearances, Antoni attempts to find herself within the fabricated family portraits. Using prosthetics and extensive make-up to sculpt her mom as her dad and her dad as her mom, she achieves a result that is both comical and thought provoking. Antoni questioned how thirty years of marriage affected the individuality of her mother and father and whether the gender roles she attributed to them shifted or changed over the course of her life. As she began working, she discovered that “it was actually impossible for me to turn my mom into my dad and dad into my mom,” producing instead what she considered to be a caricature version of halves of both people. Antoni failed to hide the true gender of her parents, but confirmed that she viewed them as one unit, perceiving their presence not as two distinct personalities, but as one permanent fixture.