'It was breathtaking': Local artist's MMIWG painting touches family in Nebraska

Edmonton artist Tristen Jenni Sanderson is creating powerful paintings to act as a voice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. A recent painting titled "Not Invisible" was shared over 5,000 times on Facebook.

Paintings created by Tristen Jenni Sanderson have been shared thousands of times on Facebook 

Tristen Jenni Sanderson holds up one of her indigenous inspired paintings at a southside tattoo parlour shop where she works. Her paintings have recieved attention from across North America. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

When Tristen Jenni Sanderson created her powerful painting titled Not Invisible last month, little did she know how far-reaching its impact would be. 

A picture of the painting was shared over 5,600 times on Facebook alone. 

"One person shared it, and it just took off from there," Sanderson said, recalling how the painting's popularity overloaded her Facebook and Instagram inboxes with requests for more. 

The picture is of an Indigenous woman, whose mouth and part of her face is covered with a bloody hand print.

Sanderson says the hand print signifies how missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls won't be silenced.

"The red hand is to signify that we stand with you even though they're gone, we're still here fighting for them," said Sanderson who works as a tattoo artist in south Edmonton. 

Nebraska connection 

Over 2,000 kilometres away on the Omaha Reservation in Walthill, Nebraska, Galen Aldrich saw Sanderson's painting come across his social media feed. 

Aldrich said he was moved by the powerful imagery of the painting having recently lost his own daughter.

Local artist's MMIWG painting touches family in Nebraska

4 years ago
Duration 2:41
Tristen Jenni Sanderson's painting has been shared over 5, 600 times

Ashlea Aldrich, 29, was killed, and found in a field on January 7th on the Omaha Reservation.

The family says their daughter was a victim of years of domestic violence. 

"It related to my daughter's death," said Aldrich upon seeing Sanderson's painting.

Aldrich contacted Sanderson to see if he could get permission to have the image tattooed on his body.

 'I'm so honoured by it'

Sanderson gave Aldrich permission to have the image tattooed, but Aldrich went one step further and asked her if she could paint an image of his daughter. 

"She asked for my daughter's picture, so I sent a picture, and in a couple of days she sent it back," added Aldrich.

Aldrich posted his daughter's picture online, and it was shared by thousands too. 

Sanderson said the response has been overwhelming. 

"You know people are reaching out about it, they were so touched by it," said Sanderson who has received emails with additional requests for paintings from people as far away as Australia, and New Zealand. 

"I do paintings for people and I'm so honoured that I get to do it to help them memorialize their loved ones," she added. 

'It was beautiful' 

Tillie Aldrich says Sanderson's painting of her daughter is one she can't stop looking at. 

"It was breathtaking, it was beautiful and I just stare at it. I do every day," she said.     

"It doesn't make me sad, it doesn't make me miss her, it just empowers me to keep fighting," added Aldrich.

It's why Sanderson says she created the original painting, to create more awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

"Look at how many people we've lost without justice, there's so much injustice happening still because of these stereotypes, and I just want to open people's eyes."

Sanderson says most of her paintings range in price from $500 to $750 dollars. 

But she says for the memorial paintings, she's doing them for free.