the Beautiful Women Project

The Beautiful Women Project 

cross-posted to running through rain

What causes art? In this case, it’s simple: a child’s desire for mutilation.

Do 13-year-olds really need to be saving their babysitting and paper route money for breast implants? Cheryl-Ann Webster wondered that herself, when her daughter told her that a friend was already socking away money for the boobflation job she felt would be an absolute necessity, sooner rather than later.

So Cheryl-Ann made a few synthetic boobs herself; she made The Beautiful Women Project.

To demonstrate that beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes, she wanted to surround young girls with sculptures of real women’s bodies…

The Beautiful Women Project is a touring art exhibition of life-sized torsos of real women aged 19-91.

Aims:

  • To challenge socially-constructed images of beauty
  • To raise awareness and open a dialogue about the link between self-worth and physical appearance
  • To be a teaching and healing tool

In the artist’s words: “Our bodies tell our life story. They are portraits of our journeys and experiences. Knowing that our body is beautiful just as it exists, is a message more people need to see and hear.”

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17 thoughts on “the Beautiful Women Project

  1. I like the idea, but why just torsos with tits?

    And I don’t see how this wonderful exhibit (don’t get me wrong – I really like it) is going to stop 14-year-olds from wanting big-time jugs like Pamela (or whoever is the latest big-jugged thing) unless some serious real time could possibly be spent showing teenagers that superficiality is wrong.

    Except, um… well, you probably know where I’m going.

    The exhibit is fab. But a bit like preaching to the converted. And possibly too much emphasis on tits, ya know?

  2. Great post,
    I agree with the tits comment though – bottoms should be included.

    (I could name an arse or two but they’d be male)

  3. Regarding Azahar’s questions:

    The exhibit is currently in Cambridge, Ontario. Cheryl-Ann (who’s home in Ottawa) is living in Cambridge for the month, while the exhibit is there. That’s because she is doing somewhere around 40 presentations and talks while the exhibit is on. Many of these are given to school groups.

    So, yeah, part of the project is spending time making sure there is discussion about the “why” of it all…

  4. the artwork is very attractive and it’s a nice idea but nearly all the breasts on display were a good handful or more.

    were there any flat chested torsos? maybe it’s the young girls with lean androgynous bodies who need to be reminded that flat is gorgeous too

  5. Oh yes, there is. All shapes and sizes…

    Both “goddesses” and “sprites”… There are women who are clearly serious athletes, and women who are fairly seriously overweight. There are are young and old (“19 to 91”). There are women who have had mastectomy’s (one woman was cast both before and after a double mastectomy).

    The women were all volunteers, so Cheryl-Ann took what she could get. It’s probably not a 100% accurate statistical representation of the population, but it’s pretty good.

  6. I surfed by last night too bleary eyed to appreciate this, so made this my home page to ensure I wouldn’t forget this morning to tell you how awesome this find is!
    Awesome find … And I’m stealing it!

  7. Yesterday, I was looking through a magazine that had both Olay ads (“Look younger”) and Dove ads (“Look glorious the age you are!”). This morning, in the shower, I realized my Olay body wash was almost out…and made a decision to make the next one a Dove product.

    Is the product any different? Probably not. Do the Dove executives really believe in their Campaign for Real beauty? I doubt it. But here’s a situation where the results are more important than the motives.

  8. So first off, I should state my bias. I’m the project creator’s husband. That said…

    The sculptures show breasts and bellies. Considering the project took over 2 years to create (almost full time), you’ll forgive her for not doing other body parts. 120 sculptures, everyone a different shape and decoration, is a significant amount of work and emotion as it is.

    The idea started off as talking to kids about body image issues, but has turned into a lot more. Because of the project, Cheryl-Ann has been invited to talk on the topic of body issue awareness to a very wide range of people: school groups, eating disorder groups, rape crisis out-reach workers, ywca staff, conferences, social groups, senior citizens, and others. And to everyone the message is this: be okay with who you are. If there is anything you want to change about yourself, do it from a place of loving yourself first, and not because of what others think. And consider what you are saying and portraying to those people who look up to you.

    As far as the representation of body types, there are all shapes and sizes. Beyond different sizes of woman and breast, there are also single and double mastectomies, breast reduction, a woman with scoliosis, another with a colostomy bag, and another in a wheel chair. And many more I can’t think of right now. All this from people who came to her after hearing her dream for the project. The only body types not represented are that of breast augmentation and tummy tuck.

    The most interesting part is that people have a very difficult time picking out the 91 year old, or the 19 year old (kids have a particularly hard time at this). Husbands almost always can’t find their wife’s sculpture. Well more than half the participants were unable to find their own sculpture when they were all initially unveiled. Those who did, keyed to the decoration (representing who they are), and not the shape.

    And there have been reports of significant healing from some people who have participated in the project and visited the exhibition already; one woman came to be cast (accompanied by her counsellor) to be cast as a part of her healing from a trauma (for what I can’t say). She left the casting having conquered a major fear. There are many more stories; all different, and compelling.

    This has become a multi-layered, multi-dimensional project which has meant different things to different people. It has received positive comments from both women and men of all age groups.

    It’s well worth visiting in person if you have the chance. Hopefully, with enough fund raising, it will continue to travel around until you’ve all seen it.

    And no, I’m not on commission. :)

  9. I think that if people had been able to see the whole exhibition in person or as a slideshow a lot of these questions would have been answered, although as always I welcome the debate.

  10. dove’s campaign for real beauty is laudable, but their shampoo ads are absolutely horrible. they put a stalk of tulip into a jar of dove conditioner, and the ad goes something like, if this is what a dove conditioner can do to the flower, imagine what it can do for your hair (as the ad shows the limp tulip suddenly come to life after marinating in the conditioner for hours).

  11. I love the fact these sculptures are bellies and breasts. They remind me of the ancient sculptures and figurines of Mutt, the Venus of Willendorf and of the ancient goddesses of mirth such as Baubo or Iambe. Everything the artist has tried to convey, she’s conveyed and more. This is one heck of a collection.

    PS I use dove.

  12. Pingback: the beautiful women project « running through rain

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