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Theater:The Seminole â?? Art of the Seminole: 1820-1950

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The Seminole — Art of the Seminole: 1820-1950
Through April 26 at Maitland Art Center, Maitland;
$3;
407-539-2181;
www.maitlandartcenter.org

After talking to artist Therman Statom about his massive glass art installation at the Orlando Museum of Art ("Glass roots," April 2), my curiosity was piqued about his African-American-Seminole heritage; his family is from the Winter Haven area. Something kept pushing me to attend the free lecture last Friday (April 3) at the Maitland Art Center, held in conjunction with the current Seminole exhibit, "Weaving Cultures: Art and Life Among the Florida Seminole."

As coincidence would have it, the speaker was Rosalyn Howard, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Central Florida who's done much research and writing about the interconnections between Florida Seminoles (not to be confused with the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma) and African-Americans. The way she tells it, the Seminoles welcomed African-Americans into their settlements, but there wasn't necessarily a marriage between the two distinct cultures. The relationship was complicated and allowed for exchange, but one did not meld into the other — it was more like a coexistence with inevitable overlap.

Howard's talk was followed by a special gallery tour given by I.S.K. Reeves V. Reeves and his wife, Sara, are the owners of the clothing and artifact collection now on display at the museum, which took them 35 years to build. He was as delighted as the audience to see the treasures out of their storage boxes and in the public eye for the first time.

The main gallery serves as a closet of sorts, with more than a dozen examples of colorful Seminole clothing in excellent condition. Both the long work shirts worn by men over deerskin leggings and the full-length skirts and poncho-style tops worn by women are among the costumes. Reeves says the brilliantly hued fabric (including Scottish plaids) came from European traders and was then quilted over in busy Seminole patchwork designs. There are patterns for rain and fire and others that mark them as distinctly Seminole.

The collection features another first that was years in the making. Reeves has a copy of the original 1852 daguerreotype of Seminole Indian chiefs that was taken for the Illustrated London News article, as well as the engraving created based upon the photo. The real coup came when Reeves purchased the ornate sash worn by Jumper John in the photo. So hanging all together are the photo, engraving and sash — a realistic reminder of life in our state a mere 100 years ago.

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