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Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum showcases modern art

By Braudie Blais-Billie

BIG CYPRESS — The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum showcases Seminole life and tradition through artifacts and historical items spanning more than 300 years. But with the addition of contemporary Seminole artwork, the Museum has taken a modern twist.

Tribal member and artist Elgin Jumper has worked on original paintings for seven years. His oil-based, colorful collection earned him his first exhibit, “Colorful Warriors” shown as part of the Museum’s Mosaic Art Series from June 8 to July 16.

“It’s not really just playing around with style or anything like that,” Jumper said during an artist’s reception at the Museum on June 22. “It’s more of a deep, intense investigation of style. Different styles to communicate what I feel as an artist [are] important.”

With just one look at his collection, the concept of “investigating style” is understood. The vibrancy, abstract nature and boldness on each canvas reflect both tradition and personal flair. The subjects of his paintings – Seminole people and their community – are brought to light as cultural symbols that also eternalize that culture.

“I’m working for and with the Tribe,” he said. “It’s always good to share.”

Jumper got the opportunity to showcase his work after visiting the Museum with his artistic master, international sculptor Nilda Comas. She was researching Seminole culture for a life-size bronze statue of a Seminole girl she’s creating. After treating their guests to the exhibits, the staff at the Museum insisted on viewing Jumper’s paintings and featuring them on their Mosaic Art Wall. They were looking for Seminole artists to feature, and Jumper’s creativity was just what they needed.

“He has amazing direction and amazing variety in his work,” curator of exhibits John Moga said. “A marvelous facility with color.”

Moga described Jumper’s style as cubist because of his bold use of “an explosion” of colors.

He said he was happy to hear that Jumper went in an entirely new direction with his artwork, mainly focusing on landscaping.

Fellow Seminole artist and traditional arts coordinator Pedro Zepeda has known Jumper for years and has seen his work begin as sketches on paper. Zepeda expressed his excitement in seeing Jumper’s studio art continue to progress.

“[The art show] is a history of my development as an artist,” Jumper said.

Jumper hopes his exhibit inspires others to express themselves and try out different styles of art, he said. He encourages Tribal members to participate in the arts, communicate their ideas and follow their dreams. For himself, contributing to the Seminole arts has been the most rewarding decision he has made so far.

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