Thursday, January 19, 2006

PABLITA VELARDE, 1918-2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: I just learned of the passing of Pablita Velarde, noted Pueblo artist with a definite Seton connection. This is her obituary from the New Mexican.

PABLITA VELARDE, 1918-2006
DARING LIFE
Painter ‘blazed a trail’ for Indian, female artists
By Soledad Santiago The New Mexican
The woman who honored her own Tewa birth name Tse Tsa — Golden Dawn — by creating bright and captivating paintings died in Albuquerque at 87 on Tuesday. Known to the world as Pablita Velarde, the Santa Clara Pueblo artist achieved international acclaim as an acutely observant traditionalist painter who managed to tell her cultural history in a variety of media even as she bent tradition to achieve her personal artistic goals. “She really blazed a trail both for Native American and women artists by following her dream from the time she was a young girl,” said Shelby Tisdale, director of Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Culture. “The museum has been planning an exhibition of her work for the spring featuring all her paintings from Bandelier National Monument. Now it seems more important than ever to honor her lifetime of work.” Replete with exacting detail of native daily life, dress and ceremonies, Velarde’s work is also considered of immense ethnographic importance. Just last spring, Velarde was honored by the state Legislature when it declared Native American New Deal Art Day. At that time, she and Navajo artist Harrison Begay were the only living artists who had been part of New Mexico’s version of an important Depression Era program known as the Works Progress Administration (1933-1943). The federal agency paid artists to help them survive the Depression while documenting culture in its myriad forms. Velarde, who began by recording native hairstyles, ended up the first woman in the modern era to paint murals at Bandelier. Her works, which articulate Pueblo history, were recently restored when the state celebrated Bandelier’s 90th anniversary. During her tenure with the program, Velarde created more than 85 pieces. At the Roundhouse ceremony, Velarde said that she had not known how important the arts program would turn out to be. “Today, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot with my life,” she said. In 1933, she was asked to contribute a painting to the World’s Fair in Chicago. Critical acclaim followed. In 1938, Velarde and her work toured with writerartist Ernest Thompson Seton, who built Seton Castle outside Santa Fe. Teaching briefly at Santa Clara Day School, she is reputed to have been the first woman artist to build her own studio in New Mexico’s pueblos. Working in casein, tempera, oil and acrylic, she drew on an enormous well of inner strength in documenting pueblo life as she knew it. Sometimes she received unwanted attention for daring to paint in an era when most Indian women artists were still potters. In a 1979 interview with Las Cruces public television she said, “Painting was not considered women’s work in my time. A woman was supposed to be just a woman, like a housewife and a mother and chief cook. Those were things I wasn’t interested in.” By the 1950s, Velarde’s singleminded dedication to her art had made her the best-known woman artist in New Mexico’s pueblos. Her acclaim was international. She received the Palmes d’Académiques in 1954, The Waite Phillips Trophy in 1968 and the New Mexico Governor’s Award in 1977. Today Velarde’s work is found in private and public collections including the Museum of New Mexico, the Avery Collection at the Arizona State Museum, the Ruth and Charles Elkus Collection of Native American Art, and in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “Her work is a defining element in the aesthetic of the Southwest,” said Stuart Ashman, secretary of the Department of Cultural Affairs. “Pablita Velarde’s work gave the world a kind of sensitive glimpse into Native American life and sensibilities. Her almost musical depictions of animals and keenly observed moments in daily life made her extraordinary vision appear simple and accessible.” Velarde, was born in Santa Clara Pueblo in 1918 and lived much of the last 50 years in Albuquerque. Her body will be returned to her pueblo for burial according to native custom in a private ceremony. A celebration of her life will take place at Ventana Fine Art at 400 Canyon Road from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21. The gallery, which represents Velarde’s granddaughter, noted painter Margarete Bagshaw-Tindel, is in the process of gathering samples of Velarde’s work as well as a portrait of the artist. Velarde is survived by her son, Herbert Oliver Hardin II; half-sister, Teresita Guiterrez; half-brother, Alfred Velarde of Ogden, Utah; as well as several grandchildren and three greatgrandchildren.

2 comments:

NicoleW said...
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NicoleW said...

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