An Artist Reckons With the ‘Fat’ Body
Art: Copyright Shona McAndrew. Courtesy the Artist and CHART. Photo by Neighboring States.
“As a fat woman,” Shona McAndrew explains in the catalogue for her new show, “I came to believe that I didn’t deserve intimacy, shouldn’t express happiness in the presence of others, and certainly shouldn’t be proudly showing my large naked body to anyone.” With her exhibition at Chart Gallery — featuring ten paintings, mostly nudes of herself and her lover — all that has changed. There is also one magnificent, oversize papier-mâché sculpture of McAndrew lolling in a bubble bath. Here is a ferocious artist slaying both her internal demons and cultural taboos.
McAndrew, who has described herself as “the only chubby child in France” (she grew up in Paris), was a breakout star at the 2019 Spring/Break art show. Her installation was a room-filling papier-mâché sculpture of her and her boyfriend sprawled on a bed in their messy Brooklyn bedroom. Afterward McAndrew, now 32, went a different direction, showing a series of well-done but removed images of women and friends. She’s a precisionist with a Post-Impressionistic touch for part-by-part painting, but the work was more devotional than “grab you by the lapels.” Something was missing.
Turns out, it was her. McAndrew is now the subject. She paints her naked body, either alone or being touched by others, taking pleasure in it as something that might be desired and seen without humiliation. Her work has become more open, honest, and vulnerable, without falling back on the rawness that characterized her work at Spring/Break. The paintings are rendered in a pink scale so that everything appears to come through a filter of mossy mist, lending them a formal stillness and a new sense of confidence. I can imagine this work sending profound messages to large audiences.
In Too Deep depicts McAndrew guiding the finger of her lover into her belly button as she fondles one of her breasts. Flesh abounds, falls, forms a landscape. She peers down the visage of her own body while withdrawing into her psyche. The penetration echoes Jesus guiding the finger of Thomas into his open wound.
Hold You Tight features a seated McAndrew as she embraces Stuart, her partner, who is standing. Her eyes are closed; she seems to be partaking of a world of sensual and spiritual sustenance — like she’s savoring the first taste of something she’s denied herself until now. The pose recalls Bernini’s Rape of Proserpina, with McAndrew as Hades, but rather than abducting the unwilling Proserpina into the underworld, she’s summoning something from within her. Stuart’s surrender is sweet.
Art: Copyright Shona McAndrew. Courtesy the Artist and CHART. Photo by Neighboring States.
Movie Night shows McAndrew cradling Stuart’s head in her lap. As he looks away, maybe at a screen, she’s looking down at him, at peace and ease, lost in the moment. The cards are stacked against women artists exploring this kind of secret life. The search for domestic bliss, the overcoming of body issues and self-doubt, are common topics in other fields and in the popular press but feature rarely in the realms of high art. Such themes are dismissed as the stuff of romance novels and soft-core illustration. As bell hooks wrote, “Male fantasy is seen as something that can create reality, whereas female fantasy is regarded as pure escape… A woman who talks of love is still suspect.”
McAndrew says she didn’t look at herself in a mirror for ten years. “Growing up in a fat body, I always felt that the rules of femininity didn’t apply to me,” she told me. Now, she’s rendering “body parts that made me uncomfortable” and has learned “to lovingly paint my double chin” and “to appreciate the formalism in the folds of my fat.” Now she wants “to put my secrets into the painting” — secrets that she shares with so many others. “I don’t want it to just be for me and about me,” she told the Art Career podcast in late 2022. “I want it to be for anyone with a body.”
Arts in the Garden brings a visual feast to the North Shore
Ask any creative what qualifies as art and they will tell you that art is multifaceted, spanning everything from music and performance to paintings, sculpture, sketch and – to some especially green-thumbed creatives – a meticulously curated garden.
This weekend gardens across the North Shore celebrated all things aesthetically pleasing for Arts in the Garden, a community event that fuses all facets of artistic creation by putting together visual artists, musicians and live performers in the same space.
The annual event, presented by North Van Arts, comprised 13 blooming gardens that traversed themes from ‘engaging’ – a garden with thought-provoking artwork and an active garden with bubbling ponds – to ‘connected’ – another filled with interconnected, meandering trails and musicians who sang on the on the healing power of trees.
“This natural environment lends itself so well to art. Galleries are very restrictive, you’re in a very sterile environment, but this inspires creativity, more authentic conversation,” said Garrett Andrew Chong, a photographer whose images had poked out from flourishing flower beds in a garden on West Vancouver’s Marine Drive.
For the artists participating, the event gave them the opportunity to get out of the stuffy confines of gallery and workspace, and allowed their wares to be viewed and appreciated by a wider audience.
“This is a really, really nice opportunity, this is a very different demographic to where I live, a much different crowd, and it means I can showcase all the different things that I work on,” said artist Emily Picard, an artist from the Sunshine Coast.
Like many of the artists participating, Picard’s creations complemented the space it inhabited. The eclectic nature of her work – Picard’s mediums span acrylic paint, spray paint, watercolour and marker pens – slotted in seamlessly to a garden that was anything but minimalistic.
Aptly categorised under “Ethereal” the North Vancouver garden, number 7 on the tour, had been like a scene from Alice’s Wonderland, complete with chandeliers hanging from the trees – 75 in total – birdcages protruding from flower beds and crystal dinnerware scattered large silvered tables.
Gardener Susan Bath, who has spent 27 years putting the outdoor scene together, said she hopes her mystical greenspace will inspire creativity within all who enter, and will encourage them to embrace whimsy in all its forms.
“I hope this shows that you don’t necessarily have to hire a professional, or be a professional, to create in this way. You don’t need a landscape artist, you don’t need money or a large garden, you just need time and a sense of playfulness,” she said, adding how most pieces had been gifted, bought from charity stores, or picked up from the side of the road.
While some gardens transported guests to Lewis Carroll lands, others set the scene for education. At Garden number 9, dubbed ‘Energized’, the LifeSpace Gardens hosted fellow green thumbs and offered tips and information on urban farming and vegetable growing.
At “Harmony”, garden number 4 on West Vancouver’s Whonoak Road, a fourteen year old food forest on Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) land invited guests to learn about Indigenous plants and healing.
“This is an educational space, where people can come and pick different things that they need from our community, anytime of the year,” said Senaqwila Wyss, the garden’s host, adding how the garden is open to all who want to learn.
Wyss said the event provided the opportunity for guests to learn the names of herbs and plants in the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim (Squamish language), to learn of Indigenous foods themselves – like the Indigenous wild potato wapato that has been making a comeback in local soil – and to immerse themselves in Squamish culture. Within the garden, musician Rennie Nahanee had delivered song and Squamish storytelling, talking of Elders and canoe experiences.
Whether hosting Indigenous storytelling or abstract art, each garden, said Tary Majidi, artist and host of Marine Drive’s offering, should provoke some sort of response from guests. It should inspire them to create or to engage, to connect with other people more or to just appreciate the smaller, more natural, everyday things in life.
“We could all do with getting off the internet, off social media, and going back to art and going back to the natural world, enjoying nature or clay or paint,” she said.
“If there is one thing that people should take away from this event, it’s that art can heal and that should not be overlooked,” she said.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.
Bigger Art in the Park returns this weekend
Last year’s event in Windsor’s Willistead Park broke attendance records. About 40,000 people came through the gate, and sales surpassed years in the past. Event Chair Allan Kidd said one vendor had to drive home for more inventory when they sold out.
More than 250 vendors from Ontario and Quebec registered for this year’s festival. Another 20 food vendors signed up, including local beer, wine, and spirits makers.
A complimentary bike valet is new this year. Those who go will find it at the Chilver Road entrance.
Kids Zone is back with four giant inflatables, face painting, and the chance to meet some of their favourite characters.
A free shuttle service will carry festival-goers to Willistead Park from 1591 Kildare Road and the Hiram Walker parking lot on Riverside Drive at Montreuil Avenue.
Admission is $8 at the gate, but guests can buy a ticket online for $7. There is no charge for children aged 12 and under.
Art in the Park has raised $1.3-million for the Rotary Club of Windsor 1918’s restoration efforts at Willistead Manor and $2-million for local and global projects.
“Much of our community doesn’t know that Art in the Park is a fundraising event. The people who attend help us raise the funds to build schools, drill wells, and deliver books, medicine and wheelchairs at home and around the world,” said Kidd.
Art in the Park on Saturday is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Masha Titova’s “The Music of Art”
available to read in its entirety here, manage to do.t’s not often that the cover of The New Yorker, traditionally a storytelling image signed by the artist, reflects what goes on behind the scenes at the magazine—but that is what the black and copper shapes designed by Masha Titova for the cover of the June 5, 2023, Music Issue,
The first step was connecting with Titova, a Russian artist who relocated to Montenegro last year, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I asked Titova to use her sense of design to orchestrate a portrayal of a variety of sounds. Titova says, “I don’t play an instrument, but I love music, especially its rhythms, which often inspire me. And when I design, I try to harmonize the various visual shapes as if they were part of a musical composition.”
Once we settled upon the image, we recorded the aural elements that make up the cover’s malleable melody. Some of our more musically adept staffers—including Nick Trautwein, a senior editor who moonlights as a saxophonist, and David Remnick, the editor, on guitar—gathered to interpret Titova’s shapes, selecting the ones they wished to play. Julia Rothchild, a managing editor, who contributed piano, viola, and voice, described the process as “an exercise in synesthesia. What sound would that square make, or those triangles? A thud, or a flutter?”
Impromptu chamber groups formed: a viola-cello duo, a vocal quintet. The musical respite in the middle of the day presented the opportunity to exercise a different kind of focus from that of closing pieces, or making fact-checking calls. The associate research director Hélène Werner, who has played the cello since she was eight years old, said, “Music set me on my way. It was the organizing principle of my childhood. . . . It demands, of those who play it and listen to it, intellectual commitment and emotional honesty. It is generous in return. There is no better teacher.” Rina Kushnir, the art director, also appreciates music for its emotive qualities, for its ability to communicate what is “not possible to express otherwise.” Liz Maynes-Aminzade, the puzzles-and-games editor, says that “drumming and writing (puzzles or otherwise) light up some of the same parts of my brain.” A unifying factor in everyone’s performance was how seriously each performer took their music. One after the other, when their turn came, they paused their casual banter, took a deep breath, played their bit, and only then rejoined the playful green-room atmosphere. It was an unplanned but perfect demonstration of all our colleagues’ marvellous dedication to all they do.
The making of a weekly magazine (or of a Web site, a radio show, a festival, any of our many undertakings) is always a concerted endeavor, but that collaboration happens behind the scenes. This multimedia project, programmed by David Kofahl, the head of the interactives department, with the help of the features editor Sam Wolson, gives a glimpse of the way the efforts of many talented individuals and departments combine to insure that The New Yorker appears on your doorstep (or in your in-box), week after week, as good as we can make it.
The Ultimate Solution to Selling Your Used Car in Ontario
Uganda’s president signs into law anti-gay legislation with death penalty in some cases
Alberta votes in the strangest — and closest — election in its political history
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
News21 hours ago
More Canadian companies adopt ‘stay interviews’ amid push to retain staff
Media22 hours ago
Russia says U.S. Senator should say if Ukraine took his words out of context
Health24 hours ago
B.C. initiative aims to expand genetic screening for Ashkenazi Jewish people at risk of hereditary cancers
Real eState23 hours ago
BCFSA rules on real estate agent’s $50K loan to client
News22 hours ago
Latvians got a surprise day off today. Here’s why
Business21 hours ago
U.S. debt-limit deal brings relief tinged by caution
Tech22 hours ago
Sony’s Huge Days of Play Sale on PS Plus Subs, PS5 Games, Accessories, Begins This Week
Art23 hours ago
Photos: Memories of Nakba inspire Palestinian artist’s work