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Poetry, painting, music to score Seminole performance art show

Elgin Jumper04FORT LAUDERDALE — Watching a performance art piece develop from blank canvas to deeply layered expressionism is like watching a metamorphosis.

“It starts off like caterpillars, you see, and ends up as butterflies,” said Seminole artist Elgin Jumper.

Case in point: On Dec. 5, Jumper rendered a portrait of his niece Stephanie Hall in brilliant oils while a musician plucked electric guitar and a singer voiced a melody at the historic New River Inn in Fort Lauderdale.

The recent rehearsal for “Elgin Jumper’s Theatre Studio Experience,” to be staged this spring at South Florida State College (SFSC), was as hip as the upcoming show promises. Featuring artistic director Brittney Brady (vocals) with art and sound designer Philip Huebeck (guitar and special effects), the practice skipped clumsy starts and emerged real.

A member of the Otter Clan, Jumper is a pensive poet, essayist and painter who incorporates multimedia visuals and sound for powerful presentations.

Cheri Thompson, research associate of the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society at the 109-year-old inn, witnessed the latest creation.

“It happened organically,” Thompson said. “I came in without a perception of what the piece would be but when I saw it being laid out it, I saw it mesh.”

Brady carefully staged the set – from Jumper’s body movements while addressing the audience to Hall’s motionless repose – to carefully engage the audience.

Brady and Huebeck, of Ghostbird Theatre Company which is the resident theater group of the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in Fort Myers, worked on a similar performance with Jumper for a show in January with other Seminole artists at Florida Gulf Coast University.

There, Jumper recited poetry while Gordon “Ollie” Wareham played the traditional flute. Jumper also performed words and created a charcoal sketch to Wareham’s music during a June fundraiser at the New River Inn for Nilda Comas’ “Florida – A Seminole Girl” sculpture, which will be erected in January 2015 across from the historic Stranahan House.

Jumper’s newest multimedia composition will premier 1 p.m. on March 26 amid the exhibit “At Home: Seminole Reservations and Contemporary Native Art” at the SFSC Museum of Florida Art & Culture. The exhibit, running March 11 to May 1, will highlight works by Jumper and Jessica Osceola on loan from the Tribe’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress.

Brady said components of the one-hour performance support the entire piece.

“Like a skeleton, it’s a true collaboration with us on the music,” she said. “We knew Elgin’s past piece with poetry, art and other visuals. This time he will be painting.”

The new composition will open with a prologue recited by Hall, who is a student of socialist realism and an Everglades advocate. Jumper’s recitations will be punctuated by reflective music and sounds that could range from wind dancing through palm fronds to the metal grating of industrial machinery.

“I was only good for being no good,” Jumper read during rehearsal of his own artistic metamorphosis. But his writings are also hopeful. “Paintings and poems, poems and paintings … the River of Grass, a landscape in poetic form.”

For more information about “Elgin Jumper’s Theatre Studio Experience” and “At Home: Seminole Reservations and Contemporary Native Art” with Jumper and Jessica Osceola, visit or call 863-784-7240. The South Florida State College Museum of Florida Art & Culture is located at 600 West College Drive in Avon Park, Florida.