The Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco announces the opening of Portraits in RED: Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Painting Project which will be on view May 20th to July 8th. An opening reception will be held along with members of the Chinook Indian Nation on May 19th at 5pm. The exhibit and reception are open to the public and free of charge.
The project was begun by artist Nayana LaFond in 2020. As a domestic violence survivor, LaFond began with one painting to work through her own trauma but the project quickly grew after sharing it online. LaFond is of Anishinaabe, Mi’kmaq, Abenaki, Metis, French, German and other descent and is very active in her Indigenous community.
All of the subjects she paints, mostly Indigenous missing and murdered people and victims of domestic violence, were sent to her via members of the subject’s family. LaFond decided from the beginning that she could not profit from the project in any way and does it to raise awareness about the issue. “Through painting these people, I seek to elevate their voices, promote healing and spark discussion and contribute toward change,” LaFond says.
She has now painted over 100 pieces as part of the project. “Each portrait is painted in black and white with red being the only visible color because in many Indigenous cultures spirits can only see the color red,” LaFond says. “Each painting brings me healing from my own experiences and the experiences of my family members and I hope it brings some healing to those I paint and their families.”
Forty of the portraits made their debut on the West Coast this spring, starting at the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center in Newport, Oregon. After the exhibit in Ilwaco, the portraits will travel to the Wanapum Cultural Center in Ellensburg, Yakima Valley Museum in Yakima, and Tamastslikt Cultural Center in Pendleton.
The Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10AM to 4PM. Admission is FREE.