A portrait of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Edmonton artist Shana Wilson has been shared many times since the judge died last week.
The portrait appeared on the cover of Time magazine in March.
Wilson said it was a cold day in January when she received an email from the director of the weekly publication. He asked if the magazine could commission her to paint a portrait for its “100 Women of the Year” special edition issue.
“I read it, and I was incredulous,” Wilson said.
“He said, ‘We just discovered your work online [and] we love what you stand for. You are empowering women on canvas. We have a very special edition of Time magazine, and we would like you to paint the cover.’
“It wasn’t until the next day I found out I would be painting Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
Wilson had three weeks to paint the portrait. She painted for 12 hours every day to meet the deadline.
The issue was so popular, Time released a second issue on the topic in September. This time it had a write up about Wilson and the portrait.
“Without Ruth, who in the 1970s had a crusade that she never gave up on, to have a law passed to say, ‘You cannot discriminate in the workplace on the basis of gender,’ I wouldn’t be painting the front cover of Time magazine, I would be serving coffee to the men painting the front cover of Time magazine,” Wilson said.
“It’s just the most humbling thing, to have a really tiny part of a legacy, of an icon.”
Wilson said her favourite part about the portrait is Ginsburg’s eyes.
“To me, there is a little bit of vulnerability there,” she said. “There is a very quiet strength.
“This [picture] is [from] 1996, and this is when she was just coming into her power, and there must have been moments for her when she looks at herself in the mirror and goes, ‘How did this happen? How did I get here?’”
In terms of her appearance, Ginsburg is known for her clean and tight bun. In Wilson’s painting, there are wisps of hair. That’s because Wilson thought about Ginsburg after a long day at work, and how her hair wouldn’t look as neat as at the beginning of the day.
Wilson also decided not to paint Ginsburg in her judicial robes.
“I think it’s really important when we see women rise to the top of their profession, that we acknowledge there is so much more to them,” she said.
“Ruth is more than just a Supreme Court justice. That is the extraordinary thing that she is, but she is also a woman, a daughter, a mother, a wife, a grandmother and a friend.”
Ginsburg passed away on Sept. 18. Wilson said Ginsburg was able to see her portrait before she died, and she was delighted.
While Wilson never met or spoke to Ginsburg, she said she will forever hold onto this journey, and remember getting to know Ginsburg through every brush stroke.
“This painting is forever a piece of my soul,” she said.
The portrait will be on display at Edmonton’s Peter Robertson Art Gallery for at least two weeks. It will also be facing the window in order to give all Edmontonians a chance to see it in person.
Wilson said she would like to see the portrait ultimately end up at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery or the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
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