Margaret Lefranc and Ron Pokrasso

Ron Pokrasso, master printmaker, during a Santa Fe interview said, “Margaret [Lefranc] was my only client/student/comrade who came to my studio. I gave up working for other artists in 1993 when I closed the workshop…My studio was very dear to me, but it wasn’t that dear that I couldn’t open up a small space and have Margaret come in a couple of hours at a time.” [1] Ron was the originator of the printmaking event “Monothon.” He continues to teach in museums, universities, public schools and private workshops as well as Artist in Residence nationally and internationally. Because he is known to be instrumental in helping young artists to break barriers, in the year 2000 Ron Pokrasso received the Mayor’s Recognition Award for Visual Arts for his contributions to youth and to the city of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Autumn (Ghost) (1990, monotype) by Margaret Lefranc was printed at Pokrasso’s Graphics Workshop, which was in business from 1981 to 1993. By the time he closed the Graphics Workshop in 1993, he had worked with over eleven hundred artists before he donated his business to the College of Santa Fe known as The Printmaking Center. In 1993 Ron built a studio on his home property to concentrate solely on his own artwork. Except for Lefranc who was one of the more established artists to collaborate with Ron, no other artist from 1993 to 2008 worked beside Ron in his studio. In 1995 and 1996 Lefranc was extremely fragile and needed help in pulling her prints. Unknown to Margaret, Sandra McKenzie [2] talked with Pokrasso, after which he decided to make special arrangements. Before Margaret arrived, “I would have a few plates ready for her and lay out pigments…it was a slow process…In a sense it would be sad for me because I saw exactly what she wanted to do, and I knew that I could help her do it, but…she wanted to do it herself.” [3] Pokrasso was her encourager in many areas, including having her combine some of her etchings into monotypes.

A Rose for Margaret (1997, drawing) by Ron Pokrasso reveals the affection and friendship between the two—both born in Brooklyn, both of Russian heritage, and both sensitive artists. In addition, two times Margaret met Ron’s parents in Santa Fe and in Florida where his parents lived. “Margaret drove up in her bright red Mercedes in Florida and said, ‘Take it for a spin.’ So, “I got behind the wheel and I drove around the parking lot. It was pretty funny.” [4] Though forty-four years difference in age, they were able to learn from each another. Upon Margaret’s death, prior to her memorial, Pokrasso visited her home studio and hung self-portraits of the artist around her living room for people to view. Also, from his own snapshots, he created a series of five pictures framed in a row showing Margaret working the progression of creating a monotype. He gifted the photos to McKenzie along with his drawing of his holding a rose.

 

Margaret explained the Monothon process to Michael Koster of Pasatiempo [5] for an article about the upcoming exhibition of Margaret’s Works on Paper: “I’m supposed to be in the Monothon this year…I told Ron, ‘Listen, darling, I love you dearly, and I love your wife, but I don’t know whether I have the strength to do it.’…If you take your son and he works in the studio with me, it will be…Methuselah here and the youngest kid. He is eleven going on twelve and very gifted.’  Ron answered, ‘Well, Margaret, I can arrange for you to work in my studio and we will pull the prints…We want you to do it.’” One of her prints was chosen to be in the permanent collection of the College of Santa Fe.

As Ron explained, “During the time I worked with Margaret…what I really didn’t grasp before is, I became more sensitive to the personal struggle and the personal process that we go through. I would turn to Margaret, who had years more experience than I did, and the thing that struck me the most was that she was still struggling with the same thing. There was no finality to the working process…it’s always one step ahead, and there was a tremendous amount of saving grace for me as an emerging artist to think that ‘Hey, don’t think you’ve arrived because that person over there [Lefranc], who’s been through it and is still doing it, is still searching, too…’”

Margaret bought a press in the 1950s in Miami to use for her etchings, some including Audrey Playing Recorder, Barrels on Construction Lot, Recorder Player, and Small Violin and Recorder in 1957 and 1958; from these Pokrasso pulled a limited edition in the 1990s for a Lefranc exhibition at St. John’s College. In 2016 years after Margaret’s death [6] and when Sandra McKenzie decided to move the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation from Santa Fe for better accessibility, McKenzie decided that Lefranc’s press should be donated to only Ron with affection from Margaret to complete their friendship. McKenzie assisted Ron in leveraging the heavy press into his automobile. Later by email, Ron responded, “I love this little press. It is such a throwback to early models and it’s almost more ‘imPRESSive’ as an iconic item in my studio than as the functional work horse it really is. I’ve been looking for a suitable table…but may need to have one built. Once I have it all set up, I’ll send a photo.” [7]

 

[1] Lois Katz, A Lifetime of Imaging: The Art of Margaret Lefranc, pg. 233, Nouveau Ventures Unlimited, Inc. in association with the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation, 2007.

[2] Sandra McKenzie, President of the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation, 1994-present.

[3] Lois Katz, from the recorded interview with Ron Pokrasso in Margaret Lefranc’s home studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, January 18, 1999, pg. 23.

[4] Correspondence from Ron Pokrasso,, January 21, 2008, in response to Sandra McKenzie on January 15, 2008 regarding First Lady Barbara Richardson’s private tour by McKenzie of Margaret Lefranc’s 100th Birthday Retrospective Exhibition introducing the book and film at Gerald Peter’s Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

[5] Michael Koster, Pasatiempo, printed January 17 to 23, 1997 edition.

[6] Margaret Lefranc (1907-1998).

[7] Ron Pokrasso correspondence, March 24, 2019.