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Seminole Making Sofkey / Fred Beaver

Essay/Description

Prominent artist Fred Beaver was known for combining Flatstyle and modernist painting styles to create visually detailed, historically accurate portrayals of traditional Seminole and Muscogee culture, and Seminole Making Sofkey is an excellent example of his celebration of everyday Indigenous life. Like most Flatstyle painters, Beaver is a narrator, and he uses his brush to tell a story, share a memory, or relive a moment. Here we see Seminole men and women engaged in the collective labor of making sofkey (also spelled sofke), which is “a meat and vegetable stew made thick with hominy or crushed corn.”1 The women’s full, long skirts of finely worked rows of textile patchwork are tied at the waist with cord; they are paired with brightly colored capes that extend below the elbow. The men wear brown trousers and long-sleeve patchwork shirts. Seminole patchwork is an innovative fashion movement that emerged in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with the rapid expansion of Indigenous trade economies, and it still exists today. Using a drybrush technique of color-blocked fields at a miniature scale, Beaver documented the subjects’ garments in intricate detail. In 1973, Beaver was recognized as a Master Artist by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, Oklahoma, for his paintings of Seminole architecture, food, fashion, and culture. —Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021 _____________________________ 1 Coe, Red Patriots, 244.

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Title(s): 
Seminole Making Sofkey
Creator(s): 
Fred Beaver (Artist)
Culture: 
Native American; Muscogee (Creek), Seminole
Date: 
circa 1947
Materials/Techniques: 
tempera on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955
Accession No: 
02.531
Previous Number(s): 
0227.531; 13839
Department: 
Signed by hand in tempera, "-Beaver-" in center right on recto.
Not On View

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