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Neechi Commons art shows off a vivid imagination

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Friday, July 19 was a busy day at Neechi Commons.  

In the afternoon, the Farmer’s Market set up operations with a small produce booth and various crafters. At 6 p.m., the restaurant hosted a reception for the opening of Ever Sick, an exhibit by local Aboriginal artist, Jackie Traverse.

The phrase "ever sick" is slang used in the Native community to express disgust or extreme happiness. The show explores this contrast through three collections of Traverse’s work: Childhood Memories, Seven, and Baby Gat.

The first is a series of paintings based on sketches Traverse worked on while completing her fine arts degree at the U of M.

At the time, she was searching for ideas. Not having grown up on a reserve learning the traditional stories, all she could think of was her vivid memories from growing up, including crazy things her mother and grandmother told her to encourage cleanliness, her first and last perm, and the discovery of the real meaning of her nickname.  The paintings depict a larger-than-life imagination and tell the story of how a little girl interpreted her sometimes painful and confusing world.

The second group of paintings sheds light on the seven sacred teachings (honesty, humility, truth, wisdom, love, respect and courage) by bringing out the dark side of each one, poking fun at characters who are not living them out. For example, humility captures someone who shines all the reflective surfaces in the house in order to see himself better.  Each one is painted in the traditional Woodlands style often associated with Aboriginal art, using strong lines and vibrant colour and reflecting Traverse’s creative mind and sense of humour.

Baby Gat is a series of smaller works contemplating future generations growing up in the gang lifestyle.

A take-off on the Baby Gap brand, each piece shows children wearing the fashions (baggy gang clothes) and accessories (weapons) of gang culture. Traverse is n ot unfamiliar with gang-related tragedy and is saddened by the prospects of children knowing nothing but gang life. She uses irony, shock, and humour to express her viewpoint. When creating work that addresses social issues, she won’t paint until she can find the humour in it.

"As First Nations, we laugh at everything — that’s how we survive," she says.

Traverse hopes that people who come to her show will be encouraged to believe that anyone can follow their dreams, that art is for everyone, and that everyone’s stories are valid.  

Ever Sick will be showing on the second Floor of Neechi Commons, 865 Main St., until August 1.

Sonya Braun is a community correspondent for the North End. You can contact her at sonyajoy@gmail.com.

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