Brushstrokes Of Resilience: Jackie Traverse’s Artistic Odyssey

By Chevi Rabbit
Local Journalism Initiative
Alberta Native News

(ANNews) – Jackie Traverse, a versatile Indigenous artist, expresses her creativity across a myriad of mediums, ranging from oil and acrylic paintings to mixed media, stop-motion animation, and sculpture. Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, she proudly identifies as Ojibway from the Lake St. Martin First Nation. 
Jackie’s artistic journey traces back to her childhood, where a transformative visit to the Wahsa Gallery at the age of 13 sparked her passion for art. However, it wasn’t until she reached the age of 32 that she took the bold step of submitting her portfolio to the University of Manitoba, ultimately graduating with a diploma in Fine Arts in May of 2009.
Expressing her gratitude for her artistic journey, Jackie concluded, “I’m amazed that I made it out of that system, that cycle. I have a very long criminal record. I was criminalized for 12 years of my life after aging out of care.”
Jackie suggests systemic changes to support individuals who have rehabilitated, asserting, “It’s holding me back from gaining proper employment, which keeps me stuck in the system. And sometimes, people get stuck in those systems, then they’re forced to re-offend because they can’t provide for themselves any other way.”
Reflecting on her artistic evolution, Jackie recalls, “I have been making art for about 20 years. But like, I was always doing art as a child. I knew I would be an artist. From the time I was probably about four or five years old, I was just obsessed.” Despite facing personal challenges, including involvement in the correctional system, she remained committed to her pursuit of art. “I’m also a sixty scooper, so I lived through a lot of trauma. It wasn’t until my last stint in women’s corrections that I decided to really pursue art and change my life around,” she remarked.
Driven by sheer determination and a lack of familial support, Jackie emphasized, “I didn’t have any support because I don’t have family, right? So, I just kind of did it all on my own. And failing was not an option because there was nothing else in this world that I was good at.” Her dedication to her craft is evident as she continues to immerse herself in creativity. “I constantly work, and I don’t even know if I should call it work. I love what I do. If I’m not painting, I’m making something; it’s a career now,” she shared.
Influenced by the Woodland style and her personal experiences, Jackie integrates her unique perspective into her art. “I’ve combined a bit of Woodland with my own style,” she explained. Her passion for portraying Indigenous women in her artwork stems from her familial connections. “I love to paint our women. I have three daughters and a granddaughter, so I love to portray our women in a good light, in a beautiful way,” she expressed.
Delving into the social issues embedded in her artwork, Jackie shared, “I have this painting, and it’s about Tina Fontaine. It’s an Indigenous woman with a blindfold on, holding a feather in one hand and the scales of justice in the other. It’s unbalanced, with her dress resembling the Canadian flag tipped upside down, blood dripping from it, and a group of women falling from the main police.”
Reflecting on the challenges artists face, Jackie shared, “You’ve got to have a really thick skin if you’re going to make it out there because they put these roadblocks there to make you fail, to make you give in.” She also highlighted the importance of supporting up-and-coming artists. “By doing that, you’re encouraging them to keep creating. You’re helping them to live their dream and giving them the self-esteem they need to keep going to pursue their dreams,” she explained.
Addressing the need for more support in the arts community, Jackie noted, “I know they do to a certain point and then, you know, again, it’s like funding, it’s just never enough. There needs to be ongoing support where a place where they can thrive and be supported.”
Jackie’s story is about the transformative power of art in overcoming adversity. For more information about Jackie Traverse and to explore her artwork, visit jackietraverse.com.Reporter
Alberta Native News