Yes, THAT Gorman!
Michael Gorman comes from the renowned and highly respected Gorman family. His uncle, R.C. Gorman (b. 1931-d. 2005), and grandfather, Dr. Carl N. Gorman, DHL (Kinyananni Beye) (b. 1907-d. 1998) were great influences in his life and art.
His Mother, Zonnie Gorman, is a well respected historian and the leading authority on the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II. She is currently working on her PhD at the University of New Mexico and shares the story of her father and other Code Talkers throughout the United States and Canada.
My Navajo culture and heritage are important to me. Not only as a source of inspiration for my work, but as an identity and connection the land. Below is how I would introduce myself to you in Navajo.
Yaa'a'teeh shí kei doh shí diné
(Hello, my family and my friends/people)
Shí éí Michael Gorman yinishyé
(My name is Michael Gorman)
(My mother and mothers mother are white)
(I am born for my father who is of the Mexican People)
(My mother's father is of the Blacksheep Clan)
(My father's father is of the Mexican People)
Ákót’éego diné nishłį́
(It is in this way that I am Navajo)
- Michael's Introduction In Navajo
Gorman's art centers on the continuation of traditions and the discovery of new ideas. Born and raised in the American Southwest, Gorman's art often reflects these surroundings and is blended with techniques and styles from around the world.
"I was born in New Mexico, in Gallup... but I grew up on the Navajo Reservation a little west of there, in a town called Fort Defiance."
Gorman was practically born with a paintbrush in his hand. From a young age he engaged in art, mimicking the brush strokes of his Cheii (maternal grandfather), Carl, in his home studio.
"My Cheii was always painting horses. He loved them and I loved pointing them out to him. On car rides or walks I always would point them out, even if he wasn't there."
Gorman began his formal study of the arts in 1998 when he began attending Verde Valley School in Sedona, Arizona. Perhaps in an attempt to break away from painting, he focused on the performing arts, but quickly returned to painting. In 1999 he began the study of ceramics and photography. His instructor and friend, Jeff Perkins, started Gorman on a path that would forever remain a part of his life.
The curriculum at Verde Valley School was unique. it fostered a young student's creativity and encouraged the exploration of one's self and one's place in the world. In March of 2000 Gorman found himself in Mata Ortiz (Mexico) living with Dora Quesada - niece of Juan Quesada and a master potter in her own right - studying the delicate hand built forms and firing techniques. The influence of this time is still seen in many of his pieces. A thin form, sometimes burnished and delicately painted with accents or images.
In 2002 Gorman returned home to Gallup, NM. He continued his pursuit of art and community. He continued to study black and white film photography at the University of New Mexico with Milan Sklenar (owner of Crashing Thunder Studio Gallery in Gallup, NM and professor at UNM-G) and had a small ceramic studio. In 2004 he began studies at Fort Lewis College’s School of Engineering in Durango, Colorado.
“I actually wanted to be an architect when I was younger. I loved drawing out designs for backyard forts and making small models of houses using popsicle sticks cut into ‘lumber’. By the time I had reached high school, I had developed a love of aerospace and it was an exciting time for scientific developments. I decided to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering, I enjoyed the problem solving aspects of it, and also the CAD drawing came very naturally….I think because as a ceramicist I could easily picture what parts could be extruded or rotated and what parts needed to be drawn out. After a few years, I was missing art. Fort Lewis had a fantastic art building and program. So I decided to switch majors. It’s funny: all my engineering professors would tell me I had a very creative approach to my projects while my art professors would tell me I was very methodical in my process….I don’t know. It worked for me.”
Gorman spent the next six years in Durango. Aside from his artistic pursuits he was highly involved in the Civil Air Patrol. He became the commander of his local squadron and participated in several search and rescue missions. He also volunteered for the American Red Cross as an instructor and instructor trainer in health and safety. These pursuits connected him with people of many walks of life and develop a knack for communicating ideas to people in different ways. He was working as a restaurant manager and server during this time. His uncle, R.C. Gorman, loved food and published four cookbooks “Nudes & Foods Gorman Goes Gormet”, "Nude & Foods Volume II", "Nudes & Foods In Good Taste", and "Nudes & Foods IV The Millenium Edition" . Gorman grew up on the Navajo reservation, but had also been exposed to culinary delights from around the world. When visiting his uncle in Taos, he would dine with him at some of Taos’ best establishments. His grandmother, Mary, was originally from Rhode Island and had an arsenal of traditional New England recipes handed down to her over the many generations since her family first arrived on the Mayflower. Yes, Gorman has a great admiration and respect for the culinary arts as well.
“I’ve worked in hospitality in some form or another for almost 20 years now. I love it. I never intended for it to be my profession for as long as it has been. But John offered me my first job as a host and cashier...as it turns out, I was good at it! …But there’s a lot that goes into any profession. And you can make it an art.”
After leaving Durango, Gorman found himself in Melbourne, Victoria Australia. He made the switch to digital photography. This wasn’t a very prolific time for him creating any pieces, but he spent much of his time visiting the many galleries and museums Australia has to offer.