Santa Fe art- Margarete Bagshaw: Breaking the Rules

“They tell me to go left. I go right”, says Margarete Bagshaw, a woman born to break the rules. Along with art, it’s part of the legacy she got from her grandmother, renowned Native American painter Pablita Velarde and her mother, Helen Hardin, the first Native female painter to transition from representational to abstract art. Together, these three intrepid women form the only three-generation dynasty of women artists ever.

Santa Fe Treasures: Margarete Bradshaw "Composition-Eleven" Photo/Lynn Lon

Margarete Bagshaw’s “Composition Eleven” painted 2011, Photo/Lynn Lon

Bagshaw’s one-woman show, Margarete Bagshaw: Breaking the Rules, a retrospective of her work from the last 20 years, opens at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe on Sunday, February 12th   from 1 to 4pm. MIAC calls the exhibit “a 20 year retrospective of ‘outside of the box’ creative painting – from differing uses of medium, size, shape, types of support, and layered geometric forms that have nothing to do with geometry and everything to do with listening to the spirits of her ancestors. Layer upon layer of translucent – almost subliminal - elements are depicted on everything from paper to panel to clay to canvas to wood.

Bagshaw was raised by two iconoclastic women. Her grandmother, she says, “was her own woman and her own artist.” Hardin left the traditional world of representational painting for abstract art at a time when Native women artists were painting the world as it was. According “It was her natural way to communicate,” Bagshaw shares. “The three of us have been successful as we never let it come second to anything.” It was inevitable that she too became very much her own woman.

Santa FeTreasures: Pablita Velarde's "Pueblo Ceremonial", photo/Brad Bealmear

Pablita Velarde's "Pueblo Ceremonial", photo/Brad Bealmear

Though, perhaps, painting is in her genes, Bagshaw didn’t want to follow the family tradition. “I wanted to create my own path,” she says. She started painting in her mid-20s when she was pregnant with her son. She’d spontaneously paint abstracts in the middle of the night, not knowing where they were coming from. She discovered she loved creating and started doing it on a regular basis. The paintings started to sell and she was able to pay the bills. She had learned the importance of having personal time and space to paint from her grandmother who would be in her own world until it occurred to her it was time to feed her family. Bagshaw is much the same. “My artwork is my first priority,” she says about her painting time. Her children knew that if she didn’t paint, they didn’t eat.  Hardin took it one step further. She was often focused on her artwork to the exclusion of all else; sometimes disappearing for months.

When her grandfather and then grandmother died within two years of each other, Bagshaw decided it was time to get out on her own and find out who she was. She wanted to go to a place where no one knew her and her lineage. She picked the Virgin Islands. “It gave me a new arena where I could find my personality without the shadows,” she says. She returned from her personal and artistic odyssey knowing, “That I could be an artist and be taken seriously.” She was ready to accept the mantle as the third member of this powerful art dynasty that was her heritage.

Santa Fe Treasures: "Changing-Woman Series" photo/Dan McGuinness

Helen Hardin “Changing Woman Series”, photo/Dan McGuinness

One of the biggest gifts the islands gave her was color. Some collectors were not pleased by her transition to bold color. They’d come in and say, ‘You need to stick to your earth tones- the colors of your people’” This woman who knows her own mind sticks to her guns. “My stuff is very bold color,” Bagshaw says. “I use color as far as I can.”  Color was a gift from the ocean. “If people who paint in earth tones could see the colors I’ve seen when scuba diving,” she says. “All of a sudden you realize you’re in a universe you’ve never seen as you spent your life in the desert.”

Five days before we spoke, Bagshaw finished what she calls, “her greatest recent accomplishment,” her memoirs, Teaching My Spirit to Fly. The book, part of a three-volume set, will be released during Santa Fe’s 2012 Indian Market in August. The other two books are a biography of Pablita Velarde written by MIAC’s Shelby Tisdale and one of Hardin penned by Kate Nelson. The initial release is a limited 100 copy edition. The hook: each set will contain an original Margarete Bagshaw 8”x10” painting that can be framed and hung. She’s working on them now. What makes these even more special is their small size. These days, Bagshaw prefers to work on large canvases. At the time we spoke, 85 sets were pre-sold.

Bagshaw and her husband Dan McGuiness met at the 2003 dedication of the Helen Hardin Performance Theatre, at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, (formerly the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum) in Santa Fe. They married in 2010. They Golden Dawn Gallery, named for Pablita Velarde, opened in 2009.  Golden Dawn is the English translation of her Tewa name. They have a well-defined partnership. She paints and he, as she puts it, ‘is the bus driver in the gallery.”


Margaret Bagshaw is a true Santa Fe Treasure. Come experience her colorful, no-holds barred art in person. Margarete Bagshaw: Breaking the Rules runs through December 31, 2019. Her work is also up at the Golden Dawn Gallery. Stop by. If you’re lucky, you may even run into her there; sometimes if she takes a break from her passion; painting.

This is the latest in our series on Santa Fe Treasures and our first look at the vibrant Santa Fe art scene. Read about other Santa Fe Treasures:
Architect John Gaw Meem and the Pueblo Revival

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa: Then and now
Santa Fe Treasures: Forked Lightning Ranch






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6 Responses to “Santa Fe art- Margarete Bagshaw: Breaking the Rules”

  1. TravelDesigned
    February 12, 2019 at 7:16 am #

    Thanks for introducing me to this fabulous artist!

    • Billie Frank
      February 12, 2019 at 9:17 am #

      The entire family is amazing. We plan posts on Bagshaw’s grandmother, Pablita Velarde and her mother, Helen Hardin.

  2. Charles Higgins
    February 12, 2019 at 8:12 am #

    Great history of great artists..thanks…
    Charles Higgins recently posted..2012 Las Vegas resort fees miniguideMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      February 12, 2019 at 9:18 am #

      Santa Fe has such a rich and diverse art scene, both past and present. It’s one of the things I love about living here.

  3. Traveling Ted
    February 12, 2019 at 5:40 pm #

    Wow, some amazing pieces featured in this post. I really like the Pueblo Ceremonial.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Five islands off the travel radar worth exploringMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      February 12, 2019 at 7:35 pm #

      We went to Bagshaw’s show last night. It was fantastic. The next post we do in the series will be on Pablita Velarde. We’ll talk a bit about her depictions of life on the Santa Clara Pueblo.

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