Native Arts | Margarete Bagshaw-Tindel

Margarete Bagshaw-Tindel

By Dottie Indyke

A contemporary painter carries on her family’s New Mexico art legacy

Margarete Bagshaw-Tindel never intended to be an artist. To her, art was an occupation that infiltrated her childhood so completely that there seemed nothing fresh to discover. She was proud of her famous mother, Helen Hardin, and grandmother, the Santa Clara Pueblo legend Pablita Velarde—one of the earliest, most successful Indian women artists—yet burdened by the thought of living up to their successes.

When, at 26, some primal urge prompted Bagshaw-Tindel to start drawing, she determined that her artworks would have to be judged on their own merits: She would enter only blind competitions. If jurors did not know her name, she reasoned, they could judge only the work itself. Slowly, as her pieces were selected and exhibited, she began to believe that she had talent of her own.

Those first drawings were made in the stark silence of night during her second pregnancy, when sleep escaped her. In an almost hypnotic state, she’d follow the sweeping lines she painted wherever they took her. Ovals, circles, and triangles overlapped. A Picasso eye stared out here, a winglike protuberance there, the whole emerging as a cubist drama and vivid rainbow panoply.

When her mother was still alive, pastels had been off-limits, so they were the first material she sought as an adult. “I liked the way they looked. They were easy to work with my hands. The drawings turned into these magical things,” she says.

Bagshaw-Tindel’s colorful abstract paintings, now mostly done in oils, are recognizable for their complex patterns and subtle shading, for shapes inspired by Native motifs and the natural world, and for the contrasting shadows and light that mirror the sky and desert in her native New Mexico. The paintings may be what she is best known for, but they are only one aspect of her creative output.

She is beginning to move her imagery onto three-dimensional surfaces, such as triangles and squares, painting in a steady flow around and across all the surfaces, as in an M.C. Escher drawing. A recent piece mimics a book, open to a page depicting one of her paintings. She is also casting bronzes, experimenting with wood carving, and making monotypes and etchings in collaboration with master printmaker Rick Ximenez at El Cerro Graphics in Los Lunas, NM, the same shop where her mother worked. The etchings are contemporary, with clean lines and simple colors. Their affordability is attracting a new group of collectors.

“I don’t like to feel like I’m constricted,” the 41-year-old states. “I don’t like to feel like I have to stay within a certain style. I like to see things progress and turn into other things. I’m all about adventure.”

Art was always part of Bagshaw-Tindel’s life, even when she didn’t plan on a career in it. When she was growing up, her mother needed quiet to work, so she’d ship her daughter off to her grandmother’s, where brown paper was spread on the floor and the girl and her cousins were given paints. In her early teens, encouraged by a teacher, Bagshaw-Tindel became enamored of clay. But that foray into art was short-lived. By the time she graduated from Albuquerque’s Highlands High School, she wanted to be a doctor. “I had this internal need to be a healer. My mom was ill a lot when I was a kid. When she got cancer, I became interested in the progression of the disease and how she was being treated,” Bagshaw-Tindel explains.

At 17, she met her future husband, master framer Greg Tindel. Two years later, in 1984, her mother died. Bagshaw-Tindel got married, left school, and worked a succession of jobs, from selling cars to waiting tables to running an art gallery.

Today, she and her husband live in Albuquerque, where they have two children—daughter Helen, 17, and son Forrest, 14. Neither shows any interest in the family business, a perspective Bagshaw-Tindel completely understands. “I want my children to be happy. I want them to find their own purpose in life rather than fall into a life that’s already set up for them,” she says.

Meanwhile she carries on an illustrious art lineage. As she took tentative steps toward building a career as an artist, Bagshaw-Tindel was often approached about three-generational shows. For years she was not ready. She was terrified even to be exhibited alongside her mother’s work, although her ever-more-colorful, bold, and big canvases were making their way into prestigious museums and galleries. Her confidence increased when she signed with Silver Sun, the Santa Fe gallery most associated with her mother’s work; nowadays a multi-generational show isn’t such a daunting prospect.

“My grandmother, my mother, and me, each one of us progressed into our own work,” Bagshaw-Tindel says. “I take a great deal of pride in being different from my family. Yet I know my mother would absolutely love my work. As a woman, I think she’d be very proud that I’ve chosen to do things in my own style.”

Bagshaw-Tindel is represented by Ventana Fine Art, Santa Fe, NM.

Featured in “Native Arts” July 2005