On view in the Catacombs
Free and open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays,
through December 1, 11 AM – 4 PM

For nearly three decades, Janine Antoni has rendered emotions in physical form. Evoking absence to create longing, her work reminds us of our eventual mortality. In I am fertile ground, she uses these themes to pay homage to the body’s inner wisdom.

Antoni approaches the work with the belief that the body’s intuition precedes the mind’s knowledge. Movement releases muscle memory locked within and can invite spiritual states. By capturing instinctual gestures, the artist locates the body in relation to itself and others. Enshrined in the language of religious icons, some gestures are recognizable, like hands clasped in prayer, while others are much more personal and idiosyncratic.

As devotional objects in Eastern and Western religious traditions, icons are not merely depictions of the sacred; they also signify the presence of the sacred. Antoni is fascinated by the belief that when you pray to an icon, the divine looks back at you. She writes, “I insert active bodies into the porthole of the icon, focusing the manifestation of the spirit into the body’s movement, instead of the personhood of a specific saint or deity.” By venerating and gilding the gestures, the artist renders them as an invaluable accumulation—a sacred library—of wisdom that the body can intuitively access.

I am fertile ground is installed in Green-Wood’s Catacombs, one of the Cemetery’s oldest structures. It is a fitting location. In each work, bones, either cast, dragged, or impressed, surround the depicted gesture. The body is rendered calm, forceful, chaotic, tender, and animate even in its eventuality. Death surrounds life.

The Catacombs are a 15 minute walk from the Cemetery’s main entrance (at 5th Avenue and 25th Street). Maps will be available with a detailed route.

I am fertile ground is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Image: I am tool and substance, 2019
Mixed media gilded with 24 karat gold leaf
Overall dimensions: 15 1/2 x 33 x 1 1/2 inches
© Janine Antoni; Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and The Green-Wood Cemetery, New York
Photo: Ralph Smith