|Janine Antoni, Mom and Dad, 1994.|
"Mom and Dad is a triptych in which the artist's mother and father are shown in the classic poses of portrait photography, smiling and looking obligingly at the camera. But what jars us is that their facial features and clothes have been switched, as have their roles. Using prosthetic make up, wigs and her parent’s clothes, Antoni created a caricature whose reversals are unsettling for the viewer as s/he flits from one photo to another trying to ascertain the real identity of each figure. But, Antoni states, What became fascinating during the process was the resistance or the impossibility of turning my parents into each other. What I was arriving at was half-mom, half-dad creature, but to create this composite I had to reverse our roles in the sense that my parents made me, and now I was remaking them. This leads to a second reversal: the power of biological reproduction and generation, originally invested in her parents, has been exchanged for the artist's creative power. The symbolic complexity of this action invokes multidirectional vertigo. While arousing misgivings about the true sexual identity of her parents, it also alludes to secret exchangeability between them and highlights the masquerade lurking behind established social stereotypes. It also shows that identities are not fixed, solid or stable; instead, they fluctuate somewhat perversely between terms that pit nature against culture.
In Mom and Dad, Antoni also demonstrates that, like gentle but unrelenting rainfall, family life generates profound transferences that erode and alter the initial set of conditions:
Although physically my parents may embody certain stereotypes in terms of their sexual identity, their personalities were much more complex. What seemed most striking to me was that after forty years they had become a kind of unit, sometimes in spite of these gender roles. In this work, the unit includes the artist herself, although she does not figure in the images: I decided this must be another self-portrait, because that is what I am, a biological composite of the two.
This feeling of connection blots out, albeit momentarily, any differentiation from (and between) the original unit, but right away it also points to the inevitable individuation that is linked to an awareness of death. That is why the elliptical portrait also exudes the vertigo of an absent presence." [Rosa Martínez]