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About This Artwork
Carving: A Traditional Sculpture, 1972
148 gelatin silver prints and text panel
Each photograph: 17.7 x 12.7 cm (7 x 5 in.); Text panel: 39.4 x 26 cm (15 1/2 x 10 1/4 in.); 79.4 X 518.2 cm (31 1/4 x 204 in.), installed
Twentieth-Century Discretionary Fund, 1996.44
A landmark early feminist work, Eleanor Antin’s Carving: A Traditional Sculpture comprises 148 black-and-white photographs documenting the artist’s loss of 10 pounds over 37 days. Every morning she was photographed naked in the same four stances to record her barely perceptible self-induced weight loss. (The photographs from each day are arranged vertically, and the entire process can be read horizontally, like a filmstrip.) Antin’s performance purposely toyed with the traditional process of Greek sculptors, who were said to find their ideal form by chipping away at a block of marble and discarding any unnecessary material. The artist’s idea of “carving” her own body was inspired by an invitation from the Whitney Museum of Art for its biennial survey exhibition, which at the time restricted itself to the established categories of painting and sculpture, though this work was considered too conceptual for the exhibition.