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

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,” said Sanderson 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.

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 everyday,” she said.     

“It don’t make me sad, it don’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. 

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