Margaret Lefranc and Audrey Corwin Wright

When Margaret moved to Miami, she couldn’t live with her parents as Abe wandered the house at night. Her mother, Sophie, lent Margaret thirteen thousand dollars to buy in the artsy Coconut Grove area the old Captain Matheson warehouse which also had been a brothel with many rooms upstairs which was perfect for remodeling into a studio with separate living area. Margaret had experience in repairs and traveled with her tools from the farmhouse in Hunter, New York, to the Nambe Pueblo and to her new adobe home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She set about collecting old Dade County pine boards sitting on the trash pile on the street thrown from builders who were tearing down structures. As the wood was hard and almost termite proof, Margaret first had to drill holes and then use screws instead of hammering and nailing to replace strips of wood on the house. She tarred the roof herself and decades later when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in late August 1992, Margaret’s home was left standing. Andrew did sand the paint off one side of her house and broke a few jalousie window panes, but some friends’ homes close by flooded all the way to the rooftop while other dwellings blew into Biscayne Bay. Margaret’s house came to be known as being in the “Florida Alps” elevated twenty-five feet above sea-level and standing as a beacon of light amongst rubble.

 

At first Audrey Anis Corwin (Wright) [1] wanted to share in the financing of the house, but after a few years Margaret decided that the sculptor needed her own space. Audrey bought the house next door to Margaret when it came on the market. While it had a garage, Audrey’s sculpture still decorated up the stairs outside of Lefranc’s home.  She continued to use Margaret’s carport for sculpture and welding metal for herself and her students, one student being Sophie Frankel, Margaret’s mother, who became interested in classes at the age of seventy, partially because Margaret was an inspiration and also as a way for Sophie to find an interest apart from her husband’s businesses. “Sophie Frankel’s ‘Lucy Belle’ won the Art League’s first prize in sculpture” [2] in 1957 and in 1959. In 1966 Lucy Belle (Wiggins), the model for the sculpture, wrote several letters from Thomaston, Georgia, to Sophie.

Audrey’s occupation didn’t fit with her parents’ expectations. Her father was a well-known Miami architect who designed the Everglades Hotel on Biscayne Boulevard and various Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach. Her mother was known as Muriel “the hat” for her well-coiffed position in society. So, Audrey left home to support herself after studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Alabama, and Lindsey Hopkins Industrial School (where she earned a certificate in welding). She instructed sculpture in stone at the University of Miami, painted numerous private portraits, juried exhibitions, lectured, and was a private instructor all the while exhibiting and receiving prizes. 

The Existentialist (Audrey Corwin Wright) (1960) portrait Lefranc painted is aptly named; Audrey formed her essence in the course of life she chose to lead. She was still teaching students until shortly before her death at sixty-nine from cancer. She worked in both alabaster and metals. Some of her major works include a 30-foot metal mural at the Doral Resort and Country Club, a two-story fountain at the old Americana Hotel, a metal mural at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, several busts the University of Miami School of Music, and a bronze bust of George Washington Carver at Carver Elementary [3].

Untitled Sculpture (ca. 1960s) by Audrey Corwin Wright, swiveling on wood and finely marbled, is one of approximately ten sculptures of various sizes remaining with the Margaret Lefranc Art Foundation. The collection includes welded metal figures and flowers, an alabaster bas-relief of a reclining nude and an approximately two-hundred-pound white alabaster swirling ave on a black pedestal. “Art is a language of vision…I search for ways to make some order in the vast scheme of things, to put beauty even with the horrid into pure pattern—not just stylized designs—from existence to essence is my endeavor.” [4] Margaret introduced Audrey Corwin to Thomas Wright who had shortly come from England. Audrey instantly disliked him and told him—as she was prone to do whenever she walked across Margaret’s living room with a drink in hand—“You’re full of it.” Audrey married him shortly thereafter. Thomas survived a “bad war” and was blown up on a ship. He loved to build boats for later sale in their front yard.

 

[1] Audrey Anis Corwin Wright (1923–1994), daughter Albert Anis, architect, Miami Beach, Florida, and Muriel Hirsch Pick.

[2] Miami Sunday News, Art League Exhibition Excellent, Nellie Bower, Miami News Art Editor, January 13, 1957.

[3] The Miami Herald, October 22, 1992.

[4] Six in Florida, December 9–January 21, 1989, in an exhibition selected by Eugene “Gene” Massin.