Originally Published: March 7, 2010 10:56 p.m.
Margarete Bagshaw wanted to be a doctor. Instead, as a young mother, she began getting up in the middle of the night to draw.
"My career actually found me," said Bagshaw, 45, a member of a legendary Santa Clara Pueblo family who spoke at the Smoki Museum on Sunday. "I didn't want to be compared to my mother and grandmother."
Her world-famous grandmother, Pablita Velarde, and her mother, Helen Hardin, also a well-know artist, blazed trails as Native American women artists, she said.
Velarde studied with Dorothy Dunn at the Santa Fe Studio Art School at the Santa Fe Indian School beginning in 1932. By 1939 the National Park Service commissioned her under a WPA grant to depict traditional Pueblo life for Bandelier National Monument. Velarde worked in watercolors then began to gather rocks in the Painted Desert that she ground into pigments, a process called "fresco secco."
"She was strong, sort of like a billy goat," said Bagshaw, describing her grandmother. The multi-layered, detailed paintings hang in museums around the world, including the Louvre in Paris.
A trailbreaker for Native American women, members of her generation face the admonition to "make baskets and pottery and bring up their babies," Bagshaw said.
"She is the most significant American female painter in the last 100 years. My grandmother had no one promoting her. She raised two kids on her own. She kicks Georgia O'Keeffe's butt across the desert."
Hardin, who died in 1984 at 41 of breast cancer, also became a painter whose work became increasingly abstract and geometric, incorporating traditional symbols.
Never wanting to trade on her family name, Bagshaw at first entered "blind juried shows."
"I wanted to do my own work," she said. "I wanted to be in the mainstream as being my own style."
Bagshaw worked in pastels then moved to oils. "I was starting to realize my own identity," she said.
Some of her newer paintings are quite large, 4-by-5 feet. The striking and colorful modernist designs show abstract patterns with traditional elements like feathers. A bronze and several examples of her pottery also grace the exhibit. More than a dozen major art museums display Bagshaw's work, including the Museum of Albuquerque and the Wainwright Museum of Santa Fe.
Bagshaw, the mother of two college-age children, recently married Dan McGuinness. She owns Golden Dawn Gallery in Santa Fe, named in honor of her grandmother's Tewa name. Bagshaw fondly remembers visiting her father, Herbert Hardin, a Prescott resident.
The Bagshaw exhibit will run through May 28 at the Smoki Museum, 147 N. Arizona Ave., in Prescott. The museum's hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays.
Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for students and free for children younger than 12.
For more information, call (928) 445-1230.