Shana Wilson has painted portraits for the past 20 years. But, for the past year-and-a-half, directly inspired by the #MeToo movement, she’s focused on women from all walks of life. Her work has brought her together with For Women Who Roar, a multimedia organization dedicated to sharing women’s experiences, which sponsored her collection’s debut show at Vignettes this year.
What inspired you to start painting these portraits?
It all started with two paintings. The first was Marian Moneymaker, a 65-year-old model and influencer. It took me a while to convince her to allow me to paint her [without makeup] because in her early Instagram photos, she filtered them all. Once she saw the end result, she completely changed her Instagram profile and started posting real photos of herself — no more Photoshopping, no more filters — and her career took off.
Then came Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the [Senate Judiciary] hearings. Normally it takes me about a month to do a portrait, but I did hers in those seven or eight days, from dawn till I was falling asleep at my easel. It was very cathartic, getting out my emotions on this, trying to tell this story, and the end was just crushing for me. From there, I started reaching out to women who inspired me. And I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half painting women that have these really amazing stories.
How did you get involved with For Women Who Roar?
It was about the same time I painted Marian. I had painted two or three portraits when I realized I can’t do this on my own. I need somebody who can help advocate for this, because I need to get this out. So I connected with a few people and finally connected with [For Women Who Roar founder] Megan Febuary. And right away she got what I was trying to do. And now, there are 15 portraits, and I’m her official in-house art advisor and curator for For Women Who Roar.
What do you want the collection to get across?
I want women, men, boys and girls to see them and go, “These women rock!” I want to change the way women are portrayed in paintings. And I want women and men to be able to celebrate women and see them empowered on canvas. We all see presidential portraits and prime minister portraits, but it’s time we see women who are game changers, trailblazers, lifesavers and for people to find role models who they might not have otherwise known.