A startlingly powerful collaboration reimagines female beauty
What is beauty without pain? Compromise is what our culture offers women: cinching, pinching, cutting, shaving, scraping, starving, and, of course, lifting and separating, all in service of one sharply circumscribed model purported to be pleasing—but not to most, if any, women.
This extraordinary book reimagines beauty at its most provocative and fetishized locus: the female breast. Artist, writer, and scholar Joanna Frueh scrutinizes ideals of beauty and sensuality, often motivated by her experiences with breast cancer. Frances Murray, her friend and collaborator for more than thirty years, documents Frueh’s journey of unapologetic beauty in a series of intimate, dazzlingly original photographs before and after her bilateral mastectomy and chemotherapy.
Reflecting with insight, directness, and humor—and with contributions from a breast surgeon, an oncologist, and artists and scholars who have had breast cancer—Frueh arrives at a new, liberating view of beauty and of the sensual pleasure found in transformative self-acceptance. Central to this reckoning is her documentation and critique of the notion of hyperbeauty (the flash of flesh appeal, hyperthin, hyperfeminine, hyperbosomy, hypersexy, and hyperyoung sold at the global 24/7 beauty bazaar) and her playful, inventive presentation of tools for remaking minds and hearts disfigured by self-denying ideals.
In its bracing critique, passionate argument, and compelling narrative—all illustrative of its own unapologetic beauty—this collaboration is a performance of startling power, stirring to consider and a pleasure to behold.
About the Author
Joanna Frueh is a writer, performance artist, scholar, art critic and historian, and teacher whose work expands into photographic, video, and audio pieces. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art in 2008. Her books include Erotic Faculties, Monster/Beauty: Building the Body of Love, Swooning Beauty: A Memoir of Pleasure, and Clairvoyance (For Those in the Desert): Performance Pieces, 1979–2004. She has performed and lectured in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom and is professor emeritus of art history at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Frances Murray, a veteran fine arts photographer, has received several major awards, including a National Endowment for the Visual Arts grant and a National Endowment for the Arts U.S./Japan Exchange Fellowship. Her photographs are in the collections of several U.S. museums.
"Unapologetic Beauty is a downright necessary meditation on women’s wisdom and beauty in aging. Joanna Frueh and Frances Murray—in writing and image—call out the fact that our ‘hyperbeauty’ culture relies on stereotypical ‘taboos’ to make individuals unique or edgy, when we must rather recognize that ‘real flesh, real love: they are the taboos.’ And the world needs more of both."—Maria Elena Buszek, University of Colorado, Denver
"A wonderful, evocative depiction of a woman in all her glory."—Susan Love, author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book
"Joanna Frueh develops her earlier strands: body image; representation of self; relationships between image, text, and body; body work; illness and healing. Starting with friendship and creativity, she draws these themes in her work together in a powerful invocation of moving toward self-love through self-acceptance. It will always be the right time to read this, no matter the body one inhabits."—Hilary Robinson, editor of Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology 1968-2014