Joanna Frueh Home

Teaching & Outreach

Outreach: Healing and Pleasure

I'm working in medical and health venues to ease people undergoing a cancer experience. In my book, A Short Story about a Big Healing, published in 2013, I write some about my own experience of a breast cancer diagnosis, in 2012, and subsequent surgery, treatment, and post-treatment. Healing and pleasure in such a circumstance may sound like an oxymoron, but my intention is to help people open more readily than usual to their own bodily sensations and beliefs, and the language that they use to describe themselves. I know the pain of that kind of opening´┐Żand I live far more in its pleasure. The community dialogue series that I organized and facilitated, Conversations among Friends, began this avenue of teaching in autumn 2013. I also give talks and speak with support groups. And I volunteer in a chemotherapy infusion unit. The mutual learning in these simultaneously intimate and community settings is deeply satisfying.

Studio as Classroom

My first teaching experience happened when an artist friend of mine invited me to join her in giving critiques to exhibiting artists. I was living in Chicago at the time and had begun to write art criticism, mostly about Chicago art, for local and national publications. The workshops took place in my friend's studio and in the participants' studios.


I retired from university teaching in 2006. After receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in History of Culture, I left Chicago in 1981 for my first full-time teaching position. I was a professor of art history at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. My specialty was contemporary art, even though my doctoral studies were in nineteenth-century art and literature.

After two years at Oberlin I moved to Tucson and taught at the University of Arizona. Once again I was the specialist in contemporary art, and I also taught studio courses in performance art, and I fell in love with both Tucson and the Sonoran Desert. A couple years later I left and taught at a few other schools before moving to Reno in 1989 to teach at the University of Nevada, Reno. While I was hired as the historian of contemporary art, the faculty there were excited that I was a performance artist as well as a scholar and critic. They liked that a colleague could bridge studio practice and academic knowledge and, unlike other schools where I'd interviewed over the years, my new colleagues actually wanted me to teach performance art as a practicing artist. Those other institutions had found it interesting that I was both a scholar and an artist, but the faculty wanted me to teach only art history.

Currently I am Professor of Art History Emerita at the University of Nevada, Reno.

<em>The Aesthetics of Orgasm,</em> props, Reno, NV, 2002. Photo: Dean Burton. Snapshot of Joanna and her students at a party, May 2003 Joanna with her students in her Beauty and the Body class at the University of Nevada, Reno, Fall 2005