Jackie Olson Yukon Prize icon 2023 Longlist

Artist Bio

Jackie Olson was born and raised in Dawson City and is a citizen of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation. Trained as a painter, Jackie received a BFA from the Alberta College of Art in 1992, and has been creating and learning new art forms since. Jackie’s work has been featured in exhibitions across Canada including the Walter Phillips Gallery (Banff, AB), Harcourt House (Edmonton, AB), and a forthcoming solo exhibition at the ODD Gallery (Dawson City, YT). Her work lives in many private and public collections, including the Bavaria State Anthropology Museum (Germany), Indigenous Art Centre (Canada), and the Yukon Permanent Art Collection (Canada). Jackie holds a faculty position with the Yukon School of Visual Arts, and recently curated the DIRE exhibition in Dawson City, which invited several Indigenous northern artists to create new works honouring salmon-as-life. In 2022 Jackie was awarded the Yukon Hall of Innovator’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her transformative reimagining of age-old Yukon practices as an inspired new way of creating art.


Artist Statement

I make work that wants to be returned to the land, many of my works have already been curated back by the land. My art practice is process-based: I break down willow to its fibres, I cast and recast paper forms, as I walk through the bush I collect elements from the land that show up later in my paintings and sculptures. I am always making and unmaking: process is the key to a successful art piece.

Connecting with my ancestors through the materials they used in their daily lives is a powerful part of my practice. I learn how they used materials and then bring it into a contemporary context. It is all about connection: these lessons make me realize how far our families have gone away from living on the land. Growing up on the land taught me valuable lessons and shaped who I am an artist. Connection to past and present is key to being grounded in the now.
The works I have included represent the scope of my practice and my desire to work at a larger scale.



Jackie Olson, 2023

Photo by Alistar Maitland

Jackie Olson, Red Hands, 2022

"Red Hands"

2022, Acrylic, willow bark, fireweed fibre paper on canvas, 30″ x 30″

Show More

The colour red symbolizes earth, strength and embodiment; the handprints of those who have gone before me, my ancestors and relatives, evoke their presence: they are with us, they can hold us. Woven willow bark placed over the hands is a message just for them.

Jackie Olson, Woven Thoughts, 2002

"Woven Thoughts"

2022, Willow bark, willow fibres, corn husk paper, willow wood frame, 18″ x 15″

Show More

So many thoughts arise while working with willow: this piece represents the overlapping paths of thought, and by extension, the tangled path that life takes us on. Thoughts, feelings, joy, grief, love: all entangled and overlapped, but the pattern leaves space for more connection.

Jackie Olson, Salmon Sculpture, 2022

"Salmon Sculpture"

2022, willow branches, hand spin willow cordage, Yukon river rocks, acrylic paint, 4′ x 2′

Show More

The salmon in its skeletal form twists and rises in resistance to what it knows is coming. Salmon are disappearing at a rapid rate, numbers in the Yukon are dwindling to mere thousands. This sculpture is a message of hope for those that do complete their life cycle, and return to spawn and die in their homeland. This sculpture was included in the DIRE Exhibition, curated by Jackie Olson, Yukon SOVA Gallery, June 2022.

Jackie Olson, Uncovered, 2002


2022, Acrylic, willow fibre paper, spruce root, rusted metal on wood board, 20″ x 12″

Show More

There is a tension in the space where the industrial meets the organic and I like to play with this tension in my works. I often pull objects that aren’t natural into my pieces, mostly remnants of the Gold Rush.

Jackie Olson, Willow Shield, 2021

"Willow Shield"

2021, Willow bark, spruce bark, alder, poplar root, spruce roots, antler, raven feathers, rock, glass crow beads, bone beads, waxed cotton thread, willow fibre paper, 26” by 42.” Yukon University, Dawson City campus collection.

Show More


I started this piece in summer of 2019. I had harvested a variety of willow and other tree bark, I also found this beautiful piece of root on the river side. I chose this root to hold the bark weaving, I first cast willow paper to be the backing of the weaving. As the piece progressed I added spruce roots for contrast.

The main section flowed intuitively, the hanging system was more of a challenge as I wanted the whole piece to be 100% natural materials.

Spirit Shield represent the ancestors who continue to guide us in a good way.  Someone told me “the shield looks like it came from 200 years ago”.  Seeing the beauty of the environment around us can offer an array of possibilities, the connection to land continues to teach and inspire.

Jackie Olson, , 2022

"Honouring the Spirits"

2022, willow bark, willow fibres, willow paper, spruce roots, flicker feather, 10.5”x 24”

Show More

I find power in connecting with materials that were used in the everyday lives of my ancestors. While I use these materials in new ways,  I am also learning how they used it. Working with these materials like willow and spruce I harvest from the land, connects me to them, and to the land, though the two are not separated. The flicker feather is representative of our animal relations, the bright yellow shines through the piece, a reminder of the life it was once attached to.