Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Artist sheds light on the injustices against Indigenous people at the Beacon Gallery

William Fithian
Paintings from the ‘Portraits in Red’ Exhibit at the Beacon Gallery.

“Nayana LaFond: Portraits in Red, Missing & Murdered Indigenous People” opened on Feb. 17 at Beacon Gallery in Boston and is not an exhibit to miss. 

LaFond is an artist who honors the missing and murdered Indigenous people from all over. Her hope is to raise awareness of the violence happening against the Native peoples and to honor the victims and their families. 

The main staple in her pieces is a red hand over the mouths of the victims, and the rest of the image appears in black and white. In an interview with The Suffolk Journal, LaFond said it represents them being silenced from sharing their story. LaFond is also illustrating their culture in this regard, as the color red is a sacred color for Indigenous people. 

LaFond mentioned that a majority of the paintings have been done upon the family’s request. She has only chosen the people she paints when she works on activists. These paintings are able to bring relief to the victim’s families.

“I don’t know how much it impacts the actual missing, but I know that their families say that it brings them peace knowing that their family’s stories are being told, that their loved one’s face is being seen. That has brought some healing to the community,” said LaFond.

As a survivor from injustice against Indigenous people, LaFond calls her work very therapeutic. It is evident the paintings are heavy, especially for the people affected. However, she does not intend to put any specific emotions into her pieces. 

“It just happens,” she said. 

With a total of 108 pieces made, only about 20 can be seen at the Beacon Gallery. The remainder are on display at University of Massachusetts Amherst and at the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center in Newport, Ore. 

The Beacon Gallery is centered around social impact and brings social issues to Boston for everyone to see through art. 

“We are looking to bring important messages to people in Boston and really work to lift up the voices of artists who may not be heard otherwise,” said Christine O’Donnell, founder and owner of the Beacon Gallery.

O’Donnell also referred to LaFond’s work as being great for the gallery’s focus. 

O’Donnell invited LaFond back after she saw her work at the 2021 exhibit, “What Now; Making Space,” which was held at the Beacon Gallery featuring different artists every few weeks. 

LaFond does not receive any money from the work she does. The only type of donations she accepts is supplies, however, she will not accept monetary donations to buy supplies.

“In the event any money is made … I donate to the National Indigenous Women Resource Center … I don’t want to touch money, it’s medicine and it is wrong to accept money for medicine,” she said.

Although, in the future with the family’s approval, she wants to sell some pieces and donate the profit to charity. For other paintings, she wants to donate to institutions, and the rest will be given to the respective families. 

LaFond urges people to change the violence against Indigenous people. 

“Even though you may not be personally responsible, we are all, as humans, responsible for changing this,” said LaFond.

According to LaFond, Indigenous women are 10 times more likely to go missing or murdered than other demographics. And men are four times more likely.

“Nayana LaFond: Portraits in Red, Missing & Murdered Indigenous People” is a moving and emotional exhibit. It is on display at the Beacon Gallery until April 16.

Follow Will on Twitter @FithianWill

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Suffolk Journal Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Artist sheds light on the injustices against Indigenous people at the Beacon Gallery