Taos, NM, August 16
This story was featured in the August 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Order the Southwest Art magazine August 2012 print edition here, or purchase the Southwest Art magazine August 2012 digital download here. Or simply click here to subscribe to Southwest Art magazine and never miss a story!
On the Thursday before Santa Fe Indian Market, the late artist R.C. Gorman was known for hosting a party at his Navajo Gallery in Taos. The charismatic Gorman would greet guests dressed in his trademark Hawaiian shirt with a bandana around his forehead. When Gorman passed away in 2005, the pre-Indian Market party tradition died with him.
This month, however, Navajo Gallery and its new owner, Robert Sahd, are reviving the tradition and inviting art lovers to a reception and show of the artist’s works on Thursday, August 16, from 4 to 7 p.m. The show features lithographs, original paintings, and sculptures by the renowned artist. Sahd says he is excited about the event because the gallery is also exhibiting works from the artist’s private collection.
Born in 1931 in Chinle, AZ, Gorman was raised on the Navajo reservation. He grew up in a traditional Navajo hogan and began drawing at an early age on whatever materials he could find. In a 1988 Southwest Art article, Gorman related how “as a child with no equipment, I made my own charcoal, drew on cardboard boxes, in the sand, the mud, in Chinle Wash, on rocks and sand. And by the light of a kerosene lamp in a hogan.”
His father, Carl Nelson Gorman, was one of the Navajo Code Talkers and served in the South Pacific during World War II. The Code Talkers were U.S. Marine radio operators who transmitted secret communications in their native tongue. Thus the budding artist seldom saw his father during some of his formative years. Women, particularly his maternal grandmother, were his primary influences and later became the primary subject of his art.
Gorman eventually went on to study art at Mexico City College, where he was trained in the academic tradition, drawing and painting live models. It was in Mexico City that he saw works by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and Rufino Tamayo, which were said to have had a lasting impact on him because of the way the artists portrayed people.
During the 1960s Gorman settled in Taos and built his artistic reputation. His signature image eventually evolved into elegant and colorful depictions of full-bodied women portrayed in a free-flowing contemporary style. Gorman was a multi-talented artist who also created landscape and surreal paintings, sculptures, tapestries, ceramics, lithographs, and etchings. On one occasion the New York Times described him as the Picasso of American Indian artists. However, as Gussie Fauntleroy wrote in Southwest Art in 2006, “One of Gorman’s most important creations was himself: the magnetic, bigger-than-life persona that pulled in everyone from regular folks to Hollywood celebrities—among his famous friends and collectors were Elizabeth Taylor, Danny DeVito, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Gregory Peck.”
When he died, Fauntleroy also noted in the article, “he left a larger-than-life-size hole in the soul of the Taos art scene and beyond that in the world of contemporary American Indian art.” Gorman aficionados will undoubtedly want to stop by the Navajo Gallery this month for the chance to revisit the many diverse works of this legendary Native American artist. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the August 2012 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art magazine August 2012 digital download
Southwest Art magazine August 2012 print edition
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