Pictured in two centuries of images, the hypermuscular and physically strong woman is studied here for the first time as a major player in popular culture and contemporary art. Using the bodybuilder as prototype, a rich variety of authors engage with her particular physicality, and how it resonates with social issues such as female pleasure and gender stereotypes. From the sublime to the gritty, this volume presents modern amazons as a culture with a history, a dazzling and transgressive current phenomenon, and avatars of the future.
Packed with illustrations, Picturing the Modern Amazon investigates the representation of hypermuscular women in a range of visual sources. Historical images and archival materials dating from the late 1700s through the present century illustrate older notions of female strength, providing a solid base of comparison for the modern materials. Contemporary art explores a diversity of issues surrounding the physically strong woman; artists represented include Matthew Barney, Louise Bourgeois, Nicole Eisenman, Annie Leibovitz, Alison Saar, Andre Serrano, Cindy Sherman, and Nancy Spero. Comic artists address the amazon through comic strips, comic books, and unique art works that focus on muscular female characters and superheros; artists include Robert Crumb, Diane DiMassa, Roberta Gregory, John Howard, and Turtel Onli. Photographs of some of today's top bodybuilding competitors capture the stunning strength and definition of the hypermuscular woman.
Co-edited by Joanna Frueh, Laurie Fierstein, and Judith Stein, the volume's contributors are Michael Cunningham, Nathalie Gassel, Leslie Heywood, Irving Lavin, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, Al Thomas, Jan Todd, Steve Wennerstrom, and Carla Williams. Interviews with noted bodybuilders-both the sport's pioneers and today's top competitors-provide a personal perspective.
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Joanna Frueh is a noted art critic, art historian, and performance artist. Frueh's articles, reviews, and performance texts have appeared in numerous magazines and journals. She has authored, co-edited, or contributed to many critical volumes on contemporary women's art, including her own Monster/Beauty: Building the Body of Love (2000) and Erotic Faculties (1996).
Laurie Fierstein is a national champion bodybuilder with a history of pursuing creative ways of broadening the discussion of physically powerful women. She was creator and co-producer of Celebration of the Most Awesome Female Muscle in the World (1993), and produced and co-wrote Evolution F: A Surreal Spectacle of Female Muscle, thus pioneering a new genre of female muscle in exhibition/performance. Fierstein has written previously on the subjects of physically strong women, bodybuilding, and performance.
Judith Stein is a Philadelphia-based curator and critic. A recipient of the Pew Fellowship for the Arts for her critical writings, Stein is a frequent contributor to Art in America, and her feminist essays are included in The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement of the 1970s; History and Impact (1994), and Making Their Mark: American Women Artists, 1970-85 (1989).
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