Margarete Bagshaw: Breaking the Rules at MIAC

- January 18, 2012

"Just call her an artist..."

Margarete Bagshaw: Breaking the Rules at MIAC

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture hosts a retrospective of Margarete Bagshaw, one of the most important self-taught Native American painters of this century, opening on February 12 with a lecture by Bagshaw at 2 p.m.

Bagshaw belongs to the only female painting dynasty—grandmother, Pablita Velarde, mother, Helen Hardin and daughter, Margargete. All three are Santa Claran women who broke with the conventional role for women Pueblo artists—to be potters—following instead their passion to express their vision through paint on canvas.

As Bagshaw says of her grandmother Velarde, she was “the first native American woman artist, period. My mother, Helen Hardin, was the first native American woman contemporary artist.”

Like her grandmother and mother, Bagshaw is an independent spirit, not a feminist nor an activist. She is a proud successful woman artist first, who happens to be Native American. And, like her forebears, she bucks native tradition—she is a painter (in a contemporary vein), she does not live on the Pueblo and she married out of the tribe.

It is quite easy, in the milieu of most museum shows about Native American artists, to categorize these artists first as artists from a specific cultural tradition and only secondarily as “contemporary” artists." Velarde, Hardin and Bagshaw have each had the additional burden of being women artists from a pueblo with a pottery-dominated tradition. In some ways I am surprised that we have to continue to redefine them as contemporary artists who happen to be Native. We long ago stopped jumping through those intellectual hoops with Harry Fonseca, Tony Abeyta, Darren Vigil-Gray and others. For me, these three women are part of a long legacy of artists who use inspiration from a culture to inform their work as contemporary artists, be it their own culture or that of another – think Picasso/African culture.

I, myself, am looking forward to seeing the work of this ARTIST in her upcoming retrospective.