On view: January 10, 2020 – January 2021
The theme Advancing Women aligns exhibitions and programs for The Rockwell Museum in 2020. This exhibition supports that theme by recognizing the multi-generational work of one family of Santa Clara women: Pablita Velarde, Helen Hardin and Margarete Bagshaw.
Native American art is grounded in family legacy, and traditional artistic practices have been passed down from generation to generation over centuries. Although art forms evolved to suit each generation, creativity remained the central focus of makers. This compelling legacy has shaped Native American scholarship and influenced how artworks are collected. Traditional practices like pottery, weaving or basketry originated from a need to craft utilitarian objects from the raw materials that were available. These later evolved into non-functional items that were created as objects of art. These artistic practices provided Native women with agency and valuable works to sell, empowering them to provide for their families and ensuring the continuity of artistic traditions.
This family of women gained artistic recognition working outside the traditionally accepted mediums for women. Painting was considered a man’s art form, especially figural painting. When Anglo-Americans became involved with indigenous art, this gender division mirrored Western customs and was reinforced by non-native teachers through the mid-twentieth century. Velarde paved the way for her family and future generations of women artists by pursuing easel painting. She, her daughter Hardin and granddaughter Bagshaw were able to earn a living, gain recognition and break through gender restrictions in Native American art. These women accomplished this in their own lives while elevating the cultural traditions of Santa Clara Pueblo and its artistic continuity.
Velarde is the matriarch of this artistic family of woman painters. She studied with Dorothy Dunn and was her first female student at the Santa Fe Indian School. She learned to paint in a representational and highly narrative style under Dunn, who emphasized capturing traditions of Pueblo culture such as ceremonial dances. Velarde evolved from these “memory paintings” to what she termed “earth paintings,” works made with natural pigments she ground herself. By the early 1950s her work became more abstract and stylized as evident in the works featured here.
As a young artist, Hardin tried to distance herself from the artistic legacy of her mother Pablita Velarde. She resisted calling herself an artist, although by the age of 19 she had her first one-woman show. Moving away from the narrative painting style of her mother, her artwork is a blend of geometric abstraction and Pueblo archetypes. While each woman’s work is symbolic of her own self-expression, both mother and daughter influenced the other. However, the artists rarely openly credited each other as an influence as their relationship was highly competitive and often challenging.
The daughter of Helen Hardin, Bagshaw embraced her artistic heritage later in life and began creating art in her mid-20s. Her mature style is characterized by monumental sized canvases, abstract geometric forms and clearly defined fields of color. Thunder and Lightning is an unusual work for Bagshaw, as her paintings often feature a riot of color. Pueblo iconography is woven throughout her work and represented here by the presence of the water serpent. Hardin and Bagshaw’s paintings both reference their shared heritage, but present a unique perspective of their own personal experience.
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