Joanna Frueh Home



Soul-and-mind-inseparable-from-body underpins all of my work and that phrase recurs throughout my writing. Matter responds to how we treat it, to the ways in which we think about it, care for it (or not), and are conscious about it (or not). People tend to think of the body as profane and the soul as spiritual, yet the phrase soul-and-mind-inseparable-from-body indicates that the sacred and the sexual are unified. A person's genuine awareness of soul-and-mind-inseparable-from-body entails what I call dreaming the world into being, which is a process not only of personal transformation but also of social transformation. Dreaming in this way is activist.


Pleasure matters, and it informs all of my work. Pleasure not as some kind of simplistic fun or amusement and not as an escapist counterpoint to the world's abundant horrors, but rather as a movement away from the unhappiness that people too often live with as their unconsciously accepted lot in life. That pleasure produces well-being is an idea and a feeling of utmost importance in my work. Pleasure can be an everpresent movement towards happiness. Pleasure produces love and love produces pleasure. This is a process of embrace and expansion, of opening the heart. Pleasure transmutes self-loathing and mourning, which so readily constrict human beings' hearts and their entire bodies, into the opening that is love.

Performance Art

I create, write, direct, and perform my own pieces. They are intimate and embracing, and they engage the mind, the heart, and the spirit. Rich, graphic, and lyrical language spoken by my resonant voice characterizes the work. I interweave research and personal experience, scholarship and poetry, and I often sing, sometimes my own lyrics. I frequently revel in rich, delicious food, such as digging into a huge chocolate cake with a fork and then my fingers. The visual aspect of my performances is simultaneously spare and voluptuous. The staging is minimalist–music stand, a pedestal that holds a glass of water and perhaps a cake, sometimes a vase of flowers. My costumes are elegant, simple, and conventionally sexy. These days I see each piece as a kind of contemplative prayer shared by the performer and audience.

Frueh performs so that there is no distance between the viewer and the performer. You are undulating together like the air and the water. Her incredible gift for writing intimate prose takes you here—you can smell her, feel her—in short, it is a sensuous experience. It is also terrifying, embarrassing, fascinating, and exhilarating.
—Jill O'Bryan, author of "Fucking Hot: An Introduction by Jill O'Bryan," in Joanna Frueh, Clairvoyance (For Those In The Desert): Performance Pieces, 1979-2004, and "Ontology and Autobiographical Performance: Joanna Frueh's Aesthetics of Orgasm," TDR: The Drama Review (Summer 2011)
The force that most fully expressed the conjunction of Frueh's intellect and physicality was her voice. Deep, strong and melodious, this instrument ultimately entranced her audience.
— Marla Watson Schorr, High Performance, Spring 1989
. . . siren-like femme fatale with her . . . vampy attire, come-hither looks, and seductive, melodic voice . . . . the mystic . . . evident in her . . . sense of interconnectedness as love, eros, and pleasure.
— Tanya Augsburg, Joanna Frueh: A Retrospective, 2005


My photos are primarily self-portraits, often nudes or myself in performance costumes. The work partakes of high art, erotica, and family photos. I am an art historian who is fascinated by the classical Greek female nude and whose Ph.D. studies concentrated on glamour girls in 19th-century art and literature, especially those of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a painter and poet who was a rock star of his time. Some of my photos appropriate ancient Aphrodites and some honor and personalize pictures by Rossetti. My self-imaging enters into my reputation for being a trailblazer, as the photo work began in my forties and presents a woman who dreams herself into the being of glamour and sensuality. My posing or modeling is a kind of performing. Most of the photos have been shot in collaboration with other artists, three in particular: Russell Dudley (my second husband), Jill O'Bryan, and Frances Murray.

[Frueh is]...the very model of a feminist pin-up!
—Maria Elena Buszek, "Mirror, Mirror: Joanna Frueh as Fairy Stepmother," TDR: The Drama Review (Summer 2011)
She . . . has the energy, confidence, and sensuality of a newly desirous twenty-year-old.
— Nona Willis Aronowitz, in Emma Bee Bernstein and Nona Willis Aronowitz, Girldrive: Criss-Crossing America, Redefining Feminism, 2009


I use video in two different ways to document my performances: as a pretty straight record of me with an audience and as an art piece shot in a studio or another private environment and edited for aesthetic and conceptual effect.


Because I speak and sing my own texts, audio lends itself to my work. Audio pieces range from live recordings of performances with many songs in the 1980s to a studio recording in 2009 of the text only from Sexual Advances. In live performance, Sexual Advances includes spontaneous interludes with the audience.

Projects by Joanna Frueh


Download my resume (243k PDF) for details of all the book, performance, and exhibition projects.


2019Unapologetic Beauty
2013A Short Story about a Big Healing
2011The Glamour of Being Real
2008Clairvoyance (For Those In the Desert): Performance Pieces, 1979-2004
2006Swooning Beauty: A Memoir of Pleasure
2001Monster/Beauty: Building the Body of Love
2000Picturing the Modern Amazon (co-editor and contributor)
1996Erotic Faculties
1994New Feminist Criticism: Art, Identity, Action (co-editor and contributor)
1989Hannah Wilke: A Retrospective
1988Feminist Art Criticism: An Anthology (co-editor and contributor)
1982 BRUMAS: A Rock Star's Passage to a Life Re-Vamped


The date given is for the debut performance. Some performances I present only once, others I present several times.

2013A Short Story about a Big Healing
2012The Glamour of Being Real
2010I AM Desire
Maiden Elder
2009Sexual Advances
2008A Flowering of Vision
2007Goddess of Roses
Shaking Out the Dead
The Sphinx Unwinds Her Own Sweet Self
2006Swooning Beauty
2005Beauty Loves Company
2003Epiphany without End
The Performance of Pink
The Sake of Angels
To Carolee: In Apologia; Give Something to Someone
Voyaging to Cythera
2002The Aesthetics of Orgasm
2001Bloodred Beauty: A Meditation on Mel Gibson's Midlife Allure
2000The Amorous Stepmother
The Passionate Wife, the Passionate Daughter
1999Vaginal Aesthetics
1998Collecting Myself
Giving a Fuck
The Real Nude
1997Dressing Aphrodite
1996Erotic Faculties (Red)
Erotic Faculties (White)
Midlife Bodybuilding as Aesthetic Discipline
Monster/Beauty: Midlife Bodybuilding as Aesthetic Discipline
Pleasure and Pedagogy: The Professor's Body
1995Always Aphrodite
1994Egon Schiele's Monster/Beauty
Erotic Faculties
1993Oracular Voice
Polymorphous Perversities: Female Pleasures and the Postmenopausal Artist
1992Fuck Theory
Language of Love
Silver Tongues Untie the (K)-n-o-t-s
Visible Difference: Women Artists and Aging
1991Faculties of Love
The Language of War and the Language of Miracles
Rhetoric as Canon
1990Amazing Grace
Vampiric Strategies
Holocaust of Hearts or I Believe
Mouth Piece
1988Has the Body Lost Its Mind?
Jeez Louise
1987Words of Love
Clairvoyance (For Those In The Desert)
1986A Few Erotic Faculties
Poses of Power: The Female Artist as Hero(ine)
There Is a Myth
1985Solar Shores
1984Justifiable Anger
1980Shadows in the Dark Chamber
1979The Concupiscent Critic

Solo Exhibitions

2008Joanna in the Desert, selected photos
2005Joanna Frueh: A Retrospective
The Scholar's Touch, large scale projection

Work in Progress

Work in Progress
Work in Progress

The work in progress is life–that simple, that encompassing.
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Selected Projects

A Short Story about a Big Healing
A Short Story about a Big Healing

A Short Story about a Big Healing—How do you heal yourself? By healing the heart, declares Joanna Frueh in this inspiring and beneficent book about a 10-year odyssey of her own healing between 2002 and 2012.
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The Glamour of Being Real
The Glamour of Being Real

The Glamour of Being Real—deals with the art of self-creation, of trusting oneself. Passionate and insightful, and sometimes paradoxical, this helpful guide expresses simple means for overcoming bodily and everyday dilemmas..
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Sexual Advances
Sexual Advances

Sexual Advances praises men and love. The foundation of the performance is a long, spoken poem in which I interweave the everyday, such as images of a lover of mine cooking and references to his family and home, with both the romantic and the divine.
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>Goddess of Roses
Goddess of Roses

Using roses as symbols of both spiritual and carnal love, as they have been since ancient times, I explore passion, pleasure, humanity, and divinity by speaking as Goddess of Roses, a deity from my imagination.
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The Glamour of Being Real
The Performance of Pink

This piece is a robust, delicious, and liberating antidote to the marketing of a hyperfeminine pink to girls and young women.
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