Cheryl Ann Webster: Beautiful Women Project (3/20/2008)
When I initially heard about the Beautiful Women Project, I was engaged by the apparently simple nature of its message. I thought of the work as conveying many feminist interpretations of the relationship between feminine constructions of body image and media. On speaking to the artist and viewing the collection, I was struck at the memories it brought up for me. Looking at the varied torsos of other women aged nineteen to ninety-one, I reflected on my girlhood and all of the physical changes I have experienced in my adulthood and realized that, like many women, I had been critical of every permutation of my appearance.
Cheryl Ann Webster is a visual artist. She works in a variety of media, including metal and clay. Though she initially saw this project (inspired by her daughter’s comment that a friend was saving for breast implants) as personally healing, she eventually came to see the growing collection as having the potential to create a provocative yet accessible body of work which could inspire dialogue—in the vein of Kathe Kollwitz, one of her favorite artists.
Initially, Cheryl Ann had thought to leave the torsos undecorated, but decided embellishment prevented the exhibit from being visually uniform. The varied clay surfaces on the torsos are evocative of real bodies and remind the viewer that the casts are molded on individual women’s bodies and depict varied life experiences. With it’s bright direct imagery and brief narratives about women who are either at odds or have made peace with their bodies, the Beautiful Women Project is an effective catalyst for generating discussion on body image, a topic which is relevant not only for women and girls, but increasingly for all of us.