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New Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki exhibit goes ‘Skin Deep’

BIG CYPRESS — A new exhibit at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress is a first-time concept that’s been two years in the making.

The idea started when an employee noticed Tribal member Lorelei Matthews’ unique tattoos.

The exhibit “Skin Deep Contrasts in Seminole Culture” was a two-year process as the project underwent many changes, including the models and photographers.

Photographer Drew Osceola and Lorelei Matthews, curator and project coordinator, pose in front of their exhibit ‘Skin Deep Contrasts in Seminole Culture. (Photo Analicia Austin)

Matthews selected Drew Osceola, a classically trained Seminole photographer who specializes in portrait photography.

During two days of shooting, Matthews and Osceola aimed to create the effect of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

“I wanted to show that tattoos could be elegant and sophisticated,” Matthews said.

‘Skin Deep Contrasts in Seminole Culture’ exhibit is at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum through January 2020. (Photo Analicia Austin)

She drew inspiration from Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth, among other actresses from the Golden Age, by channeling their styles, specifically with the hair and makeup trends of that era.

“I wanted to showcase the ladies,” Osceola said, “and not just their tattoos.” He did so by using hand lighting to create shadows, and sculpting his subjects to create a dramatic effect that he calls a “canvas within a canvas.”

In other words, he wanted the women to be seen as whole, not just their tattoos.

Corinne Zepeda stands in front of her portrait at the ‘Skin Deep Contrast in Seminole Culture’ exhibit at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. (Photo Analicia)

Osceola said the best part about photographing his subjects was “seeing the smiles when they were presented with the final product.”

The eight women photographed for the exhibit, including Matthews, are all Tribal members. They were recruited for the project at the Tribal Fair and through social media.

The exhibit opened in September and will run through January 2020.

Words from curator and project coordinator Lorelei Matthews are part of the exhibit. (Photo Analicia Austin)