Maria Brito in conversation with artist Shona McAndrew

Maria Brito

Co-produced and co-edited by Peter Koloff.


The forcible expectation of impossible beauty standards on modern Western women may be traced back to the 1960s, when British model Twiggy and the androgynous look of the moment favored by designers such as Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent took over every runway show and every page of fashion magazines as the style to aspire to. The 1970s saw the arrival of diet pills, mainstream media coverage of Anorexia Nervosa, and the Bo Derek style of a toned, bikini-clad body who epitomized what it meant to be a “Woman 10.” The 1980s were all about the supermodels and the fitness craze was delivered directly to people’s living rooms via VHS tapes, preferably starring Jane Fonda. The 1990s had Kate Moss claiming the very ill-conceived but so-fitting “heroine-chic” look. The aughts brought us thinner women in media and also the Victoria Secret’s runway show with its impossibly elongated bodies and what marketers denominated “curves” to turn the attention on push-up bras worn by the likes of Heidi Klum, Tyra Banks and Gisele Bundchen. With very little variations of these standards, we arrive to 2016, when for the first time since Flemish-Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens created beautiful fleshy, mushy, chubby female bodies in the 17th century, we began to see again voluptuous bodies and imperfections such as cellulite and love handles became part of an inclusive body-positive narrative thanks to Instagram and models such as Ashley Graham.

Enter Shona McAndrew, a French-born, Philadelphia-based, 27-year-old artist who received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2016 and whose timing is impeccable. I had the pleasure of discovering Shona’s exceptional work two-and-a-half years ago at the Spring Show Art Fair and then re-encountered it at the Museum of Sex last year in the mega-successful all-women show “The Female Gaze.” What follows is a candid conversation we had around female bodies and a new definition of beauty standards for today.