|Mabel Dodge Luhan|
1879 – 1962
Carl van Vechten, Photographer
Mabel Dodge Luhan was less a visual artist but a writer whose account of her own complex life experiences, including her eventual self-healing in New Mexico, ran to four volumes. She was a force, a unique woman of profound contradictions; mercurial, domineering, generous, and endearing.
Luhan was born Mabel Ganson to society couple Charles Ganson and Sarah Cook. The Gansons lived in a Victorian mansion on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, New York. Buffalo mirrored the prosperity and power of the growing United States during the Gilded Age. The Gansons, who spent lavishly on their daughter, neglected her emotional needs. Her father had a violent and unpredictable temper and her mother, while decisive and strong, was not warm. Mabel grew up in a family and in a society that placed value on appearances and a lack of purpose... she was raised to charm and groomed to marry. Luhan, however, was a Victorian woman who rejected the constraints and expectations of what a woman was supposed to be. She became a symbol of the "New Woman:" self-determining, emancipated, and publicly opinionated about art, society and politics.
Her first of four marriages at the age of 21 occurred in 1900 when she wed Karl Evans, son of a steamship owner. Mabel and Karl had one son, John. When Karl died in a hunting accident two-and-half years later, he left her a widow at the age of 23. Mabel was sent by her family to Paris because she was having an affair with a prominent Buffalo physician however, just later that year she met and married wealthy architect Edwin Dodge. It was a marriage of convenience for Mabel as she needed financial support and a father figure for her son.
|Photo of Mabel and her son John in the Gran Salone, |
Villa Curonia, Florence, Italy
Mabel Dodge's friend, Bertram D. Wolfe, founder of the American Communist Party and biographer, later recalled: "Wealthy, gracious, open-hearted, beautiful, intellectually curious, and quite without a sense of discrimination, she was Bohemia's most successful lion-hunter." Her apartment in New York City became a salon, a place where intellectuals and artists such John Reed, Lincoln Steffens, Margaret Sanger, Louise Bryant, Emma Goldman, Frances Perkins, Carl Van Vechten and Amy Lowell would meet.
|Thornton Wilder Soiree, Mabel Dodge’s Greenwich Village salon|
Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers
Dodge was involved with one of the most important exhibitions of the Twentieth Century, the Armory Show of European Modern Art in 1913, and she published in pamphlet from a piece by Gertrude Stein, "Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia" which Dodge distributed at the exhibition. She contributed to The Masses, the leading left-wing literary and political journal of her day; wrote a syndicated newspaper column popularizing Freudian psychology; and supported a host of organizations, among them the Women's Peace Party, the Heterodoxy Club, the Women's Birth Control League, and the Twilight Sleep Association. She also published articles in leading modernist literary and art magazines such as The Dial, and Stieglitz' photographic magazine, Camera Work.
In 1916, Mabel and her third husband, artist and sculptor Maurice Sterne, moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, but found it too confining so they relocated to Taos. The 600-year-old Pueblo culture provided a model of permanence and stability; a total integration of personality achieved through the organic connection of work, play, community, and environment. She soon fell in love with Tony Lujan, a Pueblo Native American. She quickly divorced Sterne and wed Lujan, her fourth and final husband. Mabel viewed their alliance as a bridge between Anglo and Native American cultures but changed the spelling of her last name (Lujan to Luhan) to allow for an easier pronunciation.
|Tony Lujan of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico|
|Mabel Dodge Luhan House|
also known as Big House and St. Teresa House
Taos, New Mexico
Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1991
|Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frieda Lawrence,|
and Brett at Kiowa Ranch
Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers
Taos.org, Look and Book, Mabel Dodge Luhan, http://taos.org/women/profiles-legends?/item/78/Mabel-Dodge-Luhan, retrieved January 7, 2015.
The Muse of Taos, Stirring Still, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/1997/01/16/garden/the-muse-of-taos-stirring-still.html, retrieved January 8, 2015
Women Artists of the American West, Susan R. Ressler, ed., McFarland and Publishers, Inc. Philadelphia, p. 85-86.
Spartacus Educational, Mabel Dodge, http://spartacus-educational.com/USAdodge.htm, retrieved January 8, 2014.
Mabel Dodge Luhan, Encyclopedia.com, http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Mabel_Dodge_Luhan.aspx, retrieved January 8, 2015.
New Mexico History.org, Mabel Dodge Luhan, http://newmexicohistory.org/people/mabel-dodge-luhan, retrieved January 8, 2015.