“Magic Mirror, on the wall, who, now, is the fairest one of all?” Snow White 1937
In the age of reassuring ourselves, it’s important that all take a look in the mirror and capture their true inner beauty. In a recent NYC exhibition titled MIRROR|RORRIM, artists Shona McAndrew and February James helped patrons who were lucky enough to attend the art installation do just that.
At Select World’s S 12 Studio in collaboration with the LatchKey Gallery, the two artists put on a show to remember. MIRROR|RORRIM explored the depiction of women and offered a counter-narrative to the cultural construct of beauty.
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On Wednesday night, we were proud to welcome @ProjectGlimmer, working with @girlsinc, back to our #S12Studio in collaboration with @latchkey_gallery. 19 Project Glimmer girls, including two from our Day of Empowerment last year, got a special tour of the current MIRROR | MIRROR exhibition by @Shonamcandrew and @februaryjames, and got to watch and participate in the Fairest of Them All panel with panelists @ruba, @drlisaairan, @michelleduncan, @henriettagallina, @romyglow, and @shona_mcandrew, and moderator @hansdorsinville. Plus, all the girls went home with a #WORKYOURMAGIC tote bag packed with art supplies and makeup, and a reminder from CCO @hansdorsinville that Beauty can change the world.
By debunking the notion of a singular beauty McAndrew and James, through their art, decided that their own beauty was self-sufficient. It’s true, no longer do we need to go by whatever universal guide there is out there to decide what makes us look good and what doesn’t.
It’s time that we accept ourselves for who we truly are whether or not public opinion deems our personal image beautiful. At the opening which went down on Feb. 15, we were able to catch up with James and McAndrew to find out what their definition of beauty really is and the inspiration behind MIRROR|RORRIM.
At MIRROR|RORRIM you would’ve seen paper mache sculptures scattered around the room with each of them holding down their corners in a creative fashion. One that may have stood out to visiting viewers was a piece called Caroline where, with her own hands, McAndrew took paper mache, acrylic, steel, wood, and fabric to symbolize us in our truest forms.
For McAndrew, “unapologetic confidence is beautiful, especially when it comes to women.” She told us how annoying it is that “women are taught to apologize for taking up too much space, speaking too loud, being too bossy, too quiet, too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too pretty and too ugly.”
“A woman walking into a room with confidence, unaware and uninterested in what people want or think of her is truly beautiful,” McAndrews continued.
For James her art pieces depicted the “duality of self’ and they come at the right time in today’s “microwavable society,” she said.
Her portraits of color filled with pastels and washed watercolors force us to look deeper within ourselves and do an inner investigation. ‘Who am I in this new body?’ ‘Who am I in this new space?’ ‘How does this new space make me feel?’
Her whole artistic process is like a step into a new passage similar to adolescence or puberty. James related her artistic aspect to that of a perpetual cycle of layering, adding, and removing. She said,
“My work responds to a desire for human connection by facilitating these investigations into the interior,” said James.
The first step in realizing where your inner beauty is manifested truly begins with honesty. James when asked what her definition of true beauty really is referenced one of her favorite quotes by Thomas Paine, “He who dares not to offend cannot be honest.”
Still, being honest with one’s self has been found to be a very difficult task for today’s society. The photoshopped images and people’s constant feeling of insecurity prove that. Truth be told being honest with ourselves might be the hardest thing for us to do during our lifetimes.
“Being honest allows you to bravely, with an elegant skill, go deep inside… I mean to be genuinely, emotionally, and psychologically authentic is quite a beautiful thing. It takes work to get there,” said James.
It is no one’s duty to empower you, still, how can anyone help but be inspired by the artistic workings of McAndrews and James. It’s easy for anyone to see that there’s mucho energy put into all of the pieces.
From the outside, James looks at her pieces from distant relativity detaching herself from her works in order to foster the creative confidence she needs to complete them.
On the other hand, McAndrew incorporates herself into the sculptures that she molds and the portraits she paints. Successfully she mixes her memories and shared experiences that she has discussed with other women.
Although they want observers to see their versions of inner beauty differently, their artworks juxtaposed created a synergy in the room someone might not have felt before.
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James works from a place of compassion. She wants “the viewer to walk away having felt seen, understood, and most importantly compassion.” Her passion for her curious art observers runs deep. She said,
“My work can be a bit dense and may require some unpacking and self-reflection and that varies based on who’s viewing the work.”
Playing off of each other, McAndrew’s pieces are full frontal, have a physical presence in the world, force people to walk around them and consider them from every angle. She explained the meaning behind showing women in their private moments behind closed doors.
“A finger ambiently twirling pubic hair, a hand casually playing with belly fat or just sitting on the toilet brushing your teeth. I like making the viewer confront those honest and beautiful moments, where women can exist just for themselves,” said McAndrew.
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At the Artist Reception last night @latchkey_gallery the one thing I heard over and over again by people discussing @shona_mcandrew work was “OMG the details are incredible, just look!” And I couldn’t agree more🙏 Detail of “Sofia” 2018, paper mache, acrylic, aluminum wire and fabric by Shona McAndrew | On view @latchkey_gallery through February 15. . . . . . . #shonamcandrew #papermache #sculpture #latchkeygallery #newyorkart #waxing #female #body #sculpture #bodypositivity #effyourbeautystandards #feminist #feministart #contemporaryart
Moving forward we want to see more installations from McAndrew and James regardless if the two are showing together or separately. They both have had an impact on us and their artworks forced us to question our true identities.
After seeing what these two can truly unearth in their artworks we can all go out into the world with brand new confidence. Confidence that doesn’t rely on whatever is trending on social media but rather one that relies on what’s trending within our hearts.
Vulnerability might scare a lot of us but it is the source of McAndrew’s artistic drive. Constantly she was ambitious and went for an idea that might’ve scared her.
Still, “that idea you’ve had in the back of your mind that always felt too big or too ridiculous to undertake, that’s what you should do,” she said. And James always wants you to remember,
“Be true to yourself. Get quiet often so that you’re able to distinguish your own voice amongst the noise…