A sobering new art exhibit at Boston’s Beacon Gallery aims to raise awareness about the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous people in North America.

Opening February 17th, “Nayana LaFond: Missing & Murdered Indigenous People” will showcase monochromatic paintings by Massachusetts-based artist Nayana LaFond. Each work honors an indigenous individual lost to violence or an activist fighting this ongoing tragedy.

An extended interview with Nayana LaFond about her art and activism.

“These families and survivors are often not heard,” explains LaFond, who is of Anishinaabe and Mi’kmaq descent. “I’m seeking to provide space for those silenced, so viewers will listen to what the paintings convey.”

The exhibit confronts alarming statistics about violence against Native Americans compiled by the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. According to their study, murder ranks as the third leading cause of death for indigenous women in America. Their murder rate towers over the national average – more than 10 times higher. Additionally, over 80% of Native women endure violence during their lifetime.

To give visibility to those affected, LaFond’s somber paintings put names and stories to the numbers. Works honor activists like Olivia Lone Bear, whose disappearance spurred legislation, while other pieces memorialize victims like Ashley HeavyRunner Loring, who vanished from Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation.

“I do not wish to speak for these deeply personal experiences,” says LaFond. “But my paintings can create awareness and give much-needed visibility to devastated families and communities.”

Nayana LaFond’s searing exhibit “Missing and Murdered Indigenous People” haunts in the best way. Through stark monochromatic portraits splashed with red, LaFond skillfully humanizes a neglected crisis facing Native communities across North America. Her paintings shed light on overwhelmingly bleak statistics about missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. Yet the exhibit also uplifts by highlighting activists fighting for justice. LaFond’s work surfaces urgent issues without losing hope or humanity. This is socially engaged art at its finest – both beautiful and impactful.

Proceeds from the exhibition will support the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center. LaFond hopes visibility and donations can assist families seeking justice and closure. The exhibit runs until April 16th. Original paintings and prints will be available for purchase.

While LaFond’s work often addresses social issues, this project holds special meaning. “As an indigenous woman and mother, I feel a responsibility to use my art to confront this crisis destroying Native communities across North America.”

By memorializing both victims and activists, LaFond’s searing portraits aim to put faces to this ongoing tragedy. Perhaps her paintings can prompt reflection and fuel real change.

Crafting tapestries of critiques, Salvador weaves words with the finesse of a Renaissance artist. He's not just a writer; he's an art historian in prose.