Pamela Masik working on one of the 69 paintings in her series called "The Forgotten," which will not be showing at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver

Vancouver Art Show About Missing Women Canceled


Pamela Masik's 69 portraits of missing and murdered women, scheduled to be shown at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver in February, will not be exhibited, the museum announced Wednesday. Measuring eight feet by ten feet, the paintings depict the faces of women who have gone missing on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, at least six of whom are now known to have been slain by serial killer Robert Pickton. (Pickton was convicted in 2007 on six counts of second-degree murder; he reportedly confessed to an undercover police officer that he killed 49 women during the 20 years he was active.) In a statement partially reproduced at The Globe and Mail's website, museum director Anthony Shelton discussed the "very difficult decision" to cancel the exhibition. “There are too many unresolved issues surrounding [the exhibition]," the statement read, "and serious concerns have been raised by some individuals and groups that by showing the paintings, we might cause further distress to the families and friends of the missing and murdered women, as well as to others in the communities most affected by the issues we sought to address.”

The same Globe and Mail article quotes an interview with Masik herself: “I know that there were some, but I saw my role as an artist was to really acknowledge and bear witness to what went on."

Coverage on The Province's website focused on the role First Nations groups played in preventing the show, pointing out that the murdered and missing women are estimated to be 30 to 50 percent Native. Some families of the victims were also upset that images of their loved ones were to be shown without their consent. In an e-mail to Shelton, Corinthia Kelly, an organizer of the annual Women’s Memorial March in the Downtown Eastside, wrote that “‘The Forgotten’ does nothing to stop the violence against women in this community. It exoticizes them and turns them into commodities to promote the ‘Masik brand.’ It is very offensive to many of these families (of missing and murdered women) that the image of their beloved daughters, mothers, sisters and aunties has been stolen and used by this ambitious artist to further her own career.”

Masik says she intends to try to exhibit the series somewhere else, perhaps Ottawa.

Artist's website:

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starrynight's picture
Submitted by starrynight on
I, as a Native woman, am sorry that this art project will not be shown and that it is being looked upon as a tool to further someone's career. I do not think that is what Ms. Masik had in mind, it doesn't make sense. I've watched an artist turn a blank canvas into something unforgettable and believe that is what Ms. Masik's work did for these missing & murdered women. If it were my daughter, mother, or sister that had been murdered or was missing for years, I would not want society to forget her or think of her as just another statistic. I would be thanking this woman for her hard work & sensitivity in reminding society that my relative was a person. Maybe there is a chance that by looking at these paintings, one young woman, Native or otherwise, will realize the dangers of hanging out or living on the streets & go home. I know that Corinthia Kelly is angry at the fact that there are women missing and helps to organize a march, which I applaud. But her criticism is harsh and she should keep her anger focused on the sickos like Robert Picton.

countryboy's picture
Submitted by countryboy on
I am sure the artist had good intentions with her project; I believe that the relatives and loved ones perhaps formed the wrong conclusions in that the artist was attempting to honor the victims and bring more attention to their unreasonable demise...yes, the victims' loved ones need to have spiritual healing and let their loved ones have the ultimate journey to the Spirit World and not keep them here in our "world." I truly believe there is a huge and monumental misunderstanding that can be resolved if given an explanation. In Lakota country we do walks and other ways of honoring and bringing attention to abuse of all types and murder. This artist did something unique and she should be given the chance to have the victims represented with all respect to them and their loved ones. Theirs is a tragic story and should not be left out or forgotten; the world needs to know. This is a common irreprehensible crime in the world over. Mitakuye Oyasin (We Are All Related.)