Moving paintings created by an Alberta artist to memorialize Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are being shared around the world.
“I was not kind of expecting it at all,” painter and tattoo artist Tristen Jenni Sanderson said. “That’s every artist’s dream and hope… I want my art to reach somebody — at least one person — to impact them a little bit.”
One of her pieces, titled Not Invisible, has been shared as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Her art has been viewed on social media thousands of times.
“I’m trying to show the world this is a serious issue and a problem,” Sanderson said. “I want to show the world and it’s amazing that it’s actually happening.
“I’ve got so many people, phone calls, different organizations reaching out. It’s kind of mind blowing.”
The paintings feature the face of an Indigenous woman superimposed on a feather. The face is covered by a red hand print.
“I drew the Indigenous woman looking up and strong and proud. The hand print is red because they say a spirit can only see in red in the spirit world. So, when you put that on… it’s calling the missing Indigenous women back home.
“Putting that on their face is like: ‘We’re here and we’re not going to be silent.'”
Sanderson created Not Invisible in January. She was inspired by all the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women as well as the stereotypes and social issues that still exist today. But once that piece of art started being shared, the 32-year-old artist started receiving personal messages.
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“It touched so many people that they were like, ‘That could be my auntie, my sister, my daughter, my mother.’ It was super crazy. And now I get messages about doing their loved ones.”
“I had this man message me and he asked about getting it as a tattoo… and he’s like, ‘Would it be possible for you to draw my daughter’s face in this feather?
“He told me about her story. I was really touched and I was like, ‘I would love to. I can do that for you.’
“I painted her picture and he was super thankful. And then he shared it and that one went viral… and then I got way more messages about people wanting their loved ones in feathers like this.
“Her mother had said it’s helped her heal. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that I’m helping people.”
She’s designed about two dozen custom paintings so far, which she’s making for the families for free.
While Sanderson is happy her work is resonating with a lot of people, she said it’s sad to realize how many people have similar stories.
“I’m super thankful that they’re asking me to do this, and I’m honoured that they’re sharing their stories with me. I get a little sad — this is really a sad little world sometimes we live in — and then I kind of flip it: but it’s good. I get to help them in some kind of way. I get to help them heal. I get to help them tell their story a little bit if they want to.”
She hopes her art will also spark further conversation.
“This is to show the problem that’s still happening in today’s society… all the stereotypes we face.
“I want them to ask questions, to be aware, to get knowledge, and I’m hoping this makes them kind of look at it and ask questions. ‘What is this about? This made me feel something and I want to know why.'”