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‘Wonderful time for Seminole art’: Exhibition opens at History Fort Lauderdale

Samuel Tommie hung his art in the style of Seminole patchwork at the “A Return to Self: The Art of Healing,” an exhibition featuring Seminole artists at History Fort Lauderdale museum. An opening reception attended by some of the artists was held Nov. 21. (Photo Damon Scott)

FORT LAUDERDALE — The walls of the History Fort Lauderdale museum have been adorned with the work of 25 Seminole artists, displaying an array of talent and diversity – painting, photography, sculpture, beadwork, patchwork, mixed media and digital art. The art is part of a new show – “A Return to Self: The Art of Healing.” It’s the largest number of Seminole artists ever featured in one exhibition, something artist Elgin Jumper said is “extraordinary.”

“We definitely need more of that spirit and energy,” Jumper said. “We’re sharing our art, discussing it, analyzing it. I look forward to other Seminole artists bringing their art out for the world to see.”

The museum opened the exhibition Nov. 21, a showcase of art from five generations of Seminoles. Joining Jumper are Durante Blais-Billie, Tia Blais-Billie, Wilson Bowers, Carla Cypress, Nicholas DiCarlo, Erica Dietz, Ruby Dietz, Donna Frank, Stephanie Hall, Eden Jumper, Danielle Nelson, Alyssa Osceola, Jackie Osceola, Jacob Osceola, Jessica Osceola, the late Jimmy Osceola, Leroy Osceola, Madeline Osceola, Iretta Tiger, Daniel Tommie, Samuel Tommie, Gordon “Ollie” Wareham, Brian Zepeda and Corinne Zepeda.

Corinne Zepeda is one of several young Seminole artists featured in the show. (Photo Damon Scott)

The program’s theme of healing was chosen to acknowledge the pandemic and its sweeping affect on the tribal community and beyond. Last year’s exhibition opening was strictly virtual; this time people could attend in person or virtually.

“I think the theme of this show – it’s just giving everybody a chance to show what’s inside them,” Hall said. “That’s what we really need is just to express what’s inside of us, the emotions, our feelings – really acknowledging how we feel, even if it’s not good sometimes.”

Hall thanked Jumper and Jimmy Osceola for motivating her.

“I’m grateful to Jimmy and I just want to acknowledge him while we’re here, his impact on the community, his legacy that he’s left; it’s just once in a lifetime,” she said.

Seminole artists have been part of the museum’s programs and shows for many years, but Jumper and Jimmy Osceola were two of the first – they took art classes there together almost a decade ago.

“We kept at it and it’s paying off. It’s certainly a wonderful time for Seminole art,” Jumper said.

Jumper said he’d previously taken painting lessons from Osceola himself, who died in June and is considered one of the most prominent Seminole artists.

Jackie Osceola’s work is represented in the show along with her son, DiCarlo.

“Art is healing to me and it helps a lot of people to get through certain things that they’ve gone through in their life,” she said. “I love seeing all of this art here and I’d like to see more because we have a lot more artists.”

Artist Wilson Bowers has several pieces on display at the museum. (Photo Damon Scott)

Samuel Tommie said he laid out four of his pieces at the show in the style of Seminole patchwork, something he’s been experimenting with and wants to continue.

“That’s my way of saying the Seminole women are the ones who have kept us going and kept us alive. Because of Seminole women we are who we are today,” Tommie said.

At the show’s opening, Wareham, a longtime photographer, played musical pieces on his flute.

“You can see our world through our art. Art brings those emotions, whether it’s going to be sad, whether it’s going to make you think about something, or just bring a smile to your face,” he said.

Tia Blais-Billie is the exhibit’s cocurator with History Fort Lauderdale’s Tara Chadwick.

“I’m so grateful that I was born into a culture that’s so imbued with art,” Blais-Billie said. “Going through the pandemic it was really important that we came together for this show.”

“The Art of Healing” runs through Jan. 9, 2022. More information is at historyfortlauderdale.org.

Nicholas DiCarlo says his mother, Jackie Osceola, is his greatest artistic influence. Both have art displayed at the show. (Photo Damon Scott)
Gordon “Ollie” Wareham plays peaceful sounds on his flute while fellow artist Brian Zepeda and others at the opening reception listen. (Photo Damon Scott)
A piece by the late Jimmy Osceola titled “The Late Jimmy O’Toole” hangs in the museum. (Photo Damon Scott)
Carla Cypress has art from the collection of Donna Frank in the exhibition. (Photo Damon Scott)
Elgin Jumper is one of the tribe’s most prolific artists. (Photo Damon Scott)
Brian Zepeda’s digital photos printed on aluminum are part of the show. (Photo Damon Scott)
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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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