Shana Wilson, portrait and figurative artist from Edmonton, Canada. Photography © S. Wilson
1.Tell us what you do and your beginnings.
I am a portrait and figurative artist, working primarily oil on canvas, for over 20 years. My journey started with a Bachelor of Commerce degree and working in marketing, until I realized that it was the design aspects that resonated with me. At that point, I picked up some paintbrushes, went to art school, and have never looked back. Very quickly it became apparent that I had an aptitude and love for the face, finding the resemblance quickly, bringing color, texture, and vitality to the flesh.
2.What are your favorite museums in the world? Why?
Any museum with a fair representation of work by female artists and artists of color on its walls, is a favorite of mine. Sadly, this is a very short list which is why virtual museums are quickly becoming relevant with a more inclusive range of artists thus more interesting and progressive artwork.
I have a grave concern that the walls of our major historical institutions are overflowing with imagery of women that range from nude/titillating to subservient, in addition to very little work from women artists. The figurative work is also grossly whitewashed. Our school children visit these institutions as an important part of their education, and the imagery is oppressive. I would prefer a child, of any color or gender identification, leave a museum feeling empowered… seeing images that look like them, created by people like them.
3.How important are social networks in your business? And which platform do you prefer and why.
Social networks have been essential to my success. My 2019 exhibition of fifteen 5ft tall portraits of inspirational women, “For Women Who Roar”, received significant attention in the ‘real’ world but even more online. When TIME Magazine went searching the world for the right artist to paint a cover for their “100 Women of the Year” edition, they came upon my exhibition online.
The most thrilling words I have ever heard were when the Creative Team of TIME contacted me and said: “We saw your work and you went to the top of our list”. That still gives me chills. No social media? No TIME cover. It is as simple as that. My platform of choice is Instagram. I am a visual human, with not a lot of free time, and photographs and short videos are powerful mediums for the artistic voice.
4.What are your future projects?
The plan for this exhibition was to travel to galleries around the world, inspiring women everywhere, however covid brought that to a screeching halt. The new plan is to create a digital version of the “For Women Who Roar” exhibition so that it may be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, at no environmental cost.
It will include the portraiture, but also the background stories of, and interviews with, the exceptional women that were painted (ranging from multi-platinum recording artist Serena Ryder to breast cancer survivor and scar activist Golden Drake, to Anita Hill, the first woman to take on the Supreme Court for sexual harassment). In addition, I have been signed by MT Art Agency, the first artist agency in the world.
They support my vision of empowering women on canvas and are looking for commercial opportunities for me to paint important, Empowering portraits. How about Serena Williams for Nike? Or a female astronaut for NASA? My artistic goal is to continue to empower women on canvas. A picture says a thousand words, and I have a lot to say.
5.To create greater engagement among museums, artists and professionals, do you have any advice for cultural projects such as #MuseumWeek?
It would be amazing if #MuseumWeek brought social justice and equality digital exhibitions to the world, especially to school children. The oppressed of the world, including women and people of color, are hungry to see themselves empowered by the art and entertainment industry. If you are interested in my For Women Who Roar exhibition, let’s talk!
Interview by Fabio Pariante, journalist
Shana Wilson (Edmonton, 1966) is a Canadian artist and has been painting portraits for over twenty years. After studying at the University of Alberta, Bachelor of Commerce in Canada and the University of Hawaii in Certification in Transnational Business, she trained at the Pro’s Art School in Edmonton in Canada.
For the works of recent years, the artist has been inspired by the #metoo movement to give a voice to all women, without discrimination based on race, sex and religion: portraying women for who they are and of any social class to give a voice to every look. This is for the change of all societies in the world for the rights and respect of every woman. Wilson’s artistic trait is easy to recognize because it is strong and sweet at the same time, and it captures those little details of each face that make everything so unique and true. Wilson’s portraits are captured looks that don’t lie. And it is no coincidence that TIME chose some of his works for the covers, Jaqueline Kennedy and United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Among his most recent works is “President of the divided States of America”, the oil on canvas portrait that Shana Wilson dedicated to Donald Trump: “He is eating the United States alive, spitting out the rancid pieces to take seed and thrive”, says the artist that lives and works in Edmonton, Canada.