Mabel Dodge Luhan

Mabel Ganson, age eighteen, coming-out part (detail).

On display in the Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West exhibit

Detail - Mabel Dodge Luhan, Taos, September 1947, by Laura Gilpin.

On display in the Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West exhibit
Mabel & Company in Buffalo: Exhibition Finale, New Connections
By Elizabeth Cunningham
Pub. on The Mabel Dodge Luhan House Website (online April 2017)

Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West is currently in Mabel’s hometown [Buffalo]. The exhibition, hosted by the Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State in Buffalo, New York, runs March 10 through May 28, 2017.

Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company tells the story of this extraordinary woman and the remarkable people from Buffalo to Europe and New York to New Mexico whose lives—and artistic creations—intersected with hers. Living in Taos from 1918 until her death in 1962, Mabel influenced legions of European and American “movers and shakers” to find in northern New Mexico’s physical and cultural landscapes new aesthetic, social, and cultural perspectives on modern life. Her “artist residency” support not only brought modern art to northern New Mexico, it put Taos on the national and international maps of the avant-garde and created a “Paris West” in the American Southwest.

This exhibition is the first to explore the impact Mabel Dodge Luhan had on some of the most compelling modern American artists, writers, and social activists. These include writers D. H. Lawrence and Willa Cather, painters John Marin and Georgia O’Keeffe, photographers Paul Strand and Ansel Adams as well as choreographer and dancer Martha Graham, composer Leopold Stokowski, and social reformer John Collier. Mabel’s role as arts patron and social advocate runs parallel. The show also offers “a glimpse at the uproarious, complicated life of a woman whose goal was to revolt against the old-fashioned, Victorian environment in which she was raised.”

The section “Buffalo, 1879-1904” addresses Mabel’s formative years. Born in Buffalo on February 26, 1879, Mabel Ganson led a rebellious life, eager to break from conservative society in what at the time was one of the largest and most important cities in the United States. The Gansons lived on “Millionaire’s Row” at 675 Delaware Avenue. Mabel called it “a home destined for sorrow.” Like others of the Victorian wealthy elite, her parents left childrearing duties to governesses and nursemaids. Isolation, the fall-out from her parents unhappy, turbulent marriage, and their lack of affection left a lasting mark on Mabel. Yet, she dedicated Background, the first volume of her memoirs, to Buffalo. In her book Mabel depicts both the darkness and the light that she and her milieu experienced and endured. “I would not have had it different…I like my Buffalo as I knew it.”

Photos and their arrangement   2017 Chuck LaChiusa
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