R.C. Gorman

"The Picasso of American Indian Art"

R.C. was my uncle. You knew him as "R.C. Gorman: the Picasso of American Indian Art" (this of course must be read in lofty voice). I knew him as "Uncle R.C.". He was 52 when I was born and 74 when he passed. I knew him for 21 years.

I was only 13 when my grandfather, Carl, passed. But I grew up with him. He was there when I woke up, and there when I got home from school.

I'm 34 now. despite my grandfather passing in 1998, I have never known my life without him. He has been here with me. His voice carries in my ears and in my heart.

"Chinle Ruby Throated Hummingbird" by R.C. Gorman is a multicolored lithograph. It depicts a Navajo woman dressed in velvet, turquose and a Navajo Blanket standing next to a tulip with her hand outstretched to a hummingbird.

By the same token, I have not known Taos without R.C. When he died in 2005, I did not return to Taos until 2013. Now, living here under the Taos Mountain and I am reminded everyday of his presence. His friends, his fans, and his fellow artists come up to me and share their memories of him.

R.C.'s voice is in my head too. Not as a father figure, and neither as a teacher. No, instead I remember his laugh: a loud, high, and lyrical "Haaaa! Oh dear..."

In my more recent years, I have started to become a student of his work. Not so much to look at the art and say "This is this one of his works from 1991" or "He did this while in Houston", or "So-and-so modeled for this piece", although much of that has come with studying his work, but rather I'm searching for those things which might connect us, those thoughts that we might share, agree on or disagree on. R.C. was a very intelligent man - thoughtful and insightful. He was also an elder. He grew up in a different time than I. He watched as the outside world moved more and more into the day-to-day life of the reservation. He explored the world as a Navajo, visiting those places that sent ships and people to America. He consumed the food of the world and loved them.

He also watched as Taos changed. As national stores, restaurants and amenities have come to town, bringing progress. R.C. was very direct, but you had to be listening. He would tell you things, but it wasn't always easy to hear. A conversation with R.C. might take some time to digest. Maybe that's why he always liked to talk over dinner.


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