‘She was a superhero’: Local painter’s creative connection to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

EDMONTON — For local artist Shana Wilson, the woman affectionately known as RBG was a superhero, a real-life Wonder Woman who fought for social justice, equality and public empathy.

“She’s been an icon of mine forever,” Wilson said in Edmonton Tuesday.

Wilson was selected to paint a Time Magazine cover of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in March.

The American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court died of metastatic pancreatic cancer on Sept. 18 at the age of 87.

Wilson is now sharing her painting and the thrill of making it with Edmontonians while mourning the death of her icon.

“It actually was surprising to me. I truly have always felt Ruth was invincible,” Wilson said.

The portrait of Ginsburg, created from a photograph taken in the 90’s, was one of 10 images that covered Time magazine’s 100 Women of the Year edition.

For Wilson, it’s still hard to believe that her art was featured in such a widespread and important way.

“It was astonishing. I still get chills when I think about it actually,” she said of the call from Time requesting her work.

Wilson‘s portrait of American First Lady Jackie Kennedy also made the cover of Time.

“It’s a pretty extraordinary thing to be a very, very, very tiny part of what is Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Jackie Kennedy’s legacy,” Wilson reflected.

A well-known advocate for, and defender of, equal rights in America, Wilson credits RBG with bettering the lives of women everywhere.

“Ruth was everything to me. It was Ruth’s constant efforts to have a law passed that said you can’t discriminate on the basis of gender. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today, and millions of other women wouldn’t be where they are today,” Wilson added.

Wilson said a gala in New York City to celebrate the Time issue and the women featured in it was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while she never met or spoke with Ginsburg, Wilson believes the art she created with respect and admiration did reach her icon before RBG died.

“I heard through someone that she was absolutely delighted (with the cover), so what a thrill!” Wilson said.

The original work now hangs in the Peter Robertson Gallery on 123 Street and 104 Avenue in Edmonton, along with some of Wilson’s other pieces.

It’s free for the public to view and a full display will be ready by Saturday.  

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