JOANNA FRUEH (b: 1948) was an artist, writer and feminist scholar who passed away on this date. In 2008 she was awarded a Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award. Her book Monster Beauty: Building the Body of Love, dealing with the aesthetics of beauty, pleasure and the erotic in everyday life was published by the University of California Press. Her writing combined theory with autobiography, photography, and poetry to develop these concepts. She was also a performance artist. Frueh received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in History of Culture. She was Professor of Art History Emerita at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she served from 1990 to 2006. Prior to that she was Assistant Professor of art history at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, (1983-1985) and the University of Arizona, Tucson (1981-1983). She authored and edited several books, notably Erotic Faculties (University of California Press, 1996) and Hannah Wilke: A Retrospective (1989); and was co-editor of Picturing the Modern Amazon (2000), Feminist Art Criticism: Art, Identity, Action (1994), and Feminist Art Criticism: An Anthology (1991). She wrote articles and reviews for Art in AmericaArt Journal, Afterimage, High Performance Magazine, and New Art Examiner, among others.

Frueh’s work has been called trailblazing, inspiring, seductive, innovative, liberating, and playful. In 1976 The Feminist Art Journal published Frueh’s first piece of art criticism, and in 1979 she presented her first performance at the Deson Gallery in Chicago. Frueh’s interests from then continued into the present. They are the erotic, the spiritual, the body, the soul, and in ever clearer articulation over the years they comprise her philosophy of love.
Frueh discussed sexuality and the body long before they became accepted — indeed, fashionable -– areas of study in contemporary art and academia. Her thinking about those subjects, along with breaking away from standard forms of academic and critical writing, shaped what she called “a critical erotics,” which she developed in publications and performances. In these she showed that a scholar can write both sensually and accessibly and that a woman can be both attractive and smart.

Joanna Frueh died in Tucson, Arizona on February 20, 2020 due to complications from breast cancer and is survived by her spouse Kathleen Williamson and collaborator Jill O’Bryan. Her personal archives are at Stanford University.