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Margaret Lefranc and Laura Gilpin

With the passing of the 1960s, Margaret’s parents were no longer living. Margaret had intentions of returning to Santa Fe to live in the home she built before she left Nambe; however, Lefranc was involved in a productive time in the art world at the Miami Watercolor Society, Lowe Art Gallery, the Miami Art Association, and the Florida Federation of Arts, among others.


Interior Studio (Miami) (1972) consisted of two large rooms which were upstairs in her large Matheson Avenue house in Coconut Grove which Lefranc remodeled. This painting is a view of the second room of her studio where she invited her friends to tea or dinner which was separate from the remaining large living area facing the street.

She was conflicted because she had friends in Miami from many walks of life including artists and photographers Gene Massin, Klara Farkas, LaRue Storm, Audrey Corwin, Gladys Randolph, Shirley Green; environmentalists and instructors Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Jeanne Knauber; and many others. Her compromise was to spend humid Miami summers in arid Santa Fe. As she grew older, no longer renting her home year-round, she extended an invitation to house sitters needing short-term quarters for six months. While in Santa Fe, she would attend the Indian Ceremony in Nambe held on October 4, watching her adopted family dance [1]and visit remaining friends.

In 1960, Laura Gilpin estimated that her new book The Enduring Navaho [2] could be completed in another one or two years, a project which wound up occupying more than eighteen years due to lack of funds. Gilpin records in picture and word the old life and the relation of the people to their land, and reveals the strong character of the Navaho as they seek their place in the modern world. By 1960 nearly half of Laura’s gross income of $901.94 came from presentations of her slide lectures. Additional income came from small commercial jobs, including portraits, Christmas cards, a photo essay on Georgia O’Keeffe’s home for House Beautiful [3], and other jobs oftentimes not producing enough income to travel to capture images of the Pueblo and Navajo Indians living in their simplicity and grace. According to the Amon Carter Museum's archives and monographic collections, “Gilpin’s photographs are unmatched as a visual record of the profound changes and deep continuities in twentieth-century Native American life.”


O’Keeffe’s Studio (1960, photograph) was taken during this time. Owned by Margaret Lefranc (Schoonover), she gave a copy to the Museum of Fine Arts of New Mexico. Laura also photographed O’Keeffe in 1953 [4].

Margaret noted that when Maria: The Potter of San Ildefonso was published in 1948 and was quite successful, Gilpin was doing portrait photographs of all of the people who were important in the arts and in music in New Mexico. Margaret had met her socially and Gilpin approached her saying that she liked the drawings in the book. Gilpin said, “I would like to do your portrait and I will come out to Nambe to do it.” It would cost twenty-five dollars. Margaret claimed that she didn’t have twenty-five dollars. “I got one hundred and fifty dollars for doing the whole book plus six free copies and no royalties, and I was not about to spend twenty-five dollars on a photograph of me that I thought I would never use. I said to her, “Well, thank you very much, but I don’t really have the money for that.” And we let it go. That’s how I got to know Laura in 1948.” [5] It was an era when three independent women struggled against all odds: Margaret garnering finances to install electricity, water, and heat in the Nambe house; Alice attempting to avail herself of more grants; and Laura endeavoring to finding extra photographic assignments. All three independent women were attempting to fulfill their personal dreams and dedicating themselves to the visions of what was important to them, oblivious of how future generations would view their creative results.

The true friendship between Laura and Margaret began in approximately 1968 and would last until 1979 when Laura died with Margaret by her bedside at St. Vincent’s Hospital. For the six months of each year when Margaret was in Santa Fe, they saw each other every day, went to concerts and exhibitions. Margaret, whose home was six blocks away, took the short cut to walk the six blocks to Laura’s to visit and to meet the photographer’s friends, which Laura deemed important. In Miami, the two talked by phone at least three times a week.


[1] Lois Katz, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc, pg. 216, Nouveau Ventures Unlimited, Inc., in association with the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation and Sandra McKenzie ©2007.

[2] Laura Gilpin, The Enduring Navaho, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1968.

[3] Martha A. Sandweiss, Laura Gilpin, An Enduring Grace, pg. 95, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas © 1986.

[4] Ibid., Plate 101: Georgia O’Keeffe, Gelatin silver print, 1953.

[5] Lois Katz, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc, pgs. 217–218, Nouveau Ventures Unlimited, Inc., in association with the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation and Sandra McKenzie ©2007.


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