Artist R.C. Gorman descended from generations of Navajo craftsmen. After several years in the US Navy, his education, specifically a year at the Mexico City College, that fixed his desire to be an artist. From the 1970s, as his reputation spread throughout the USA and abroad. He is arguably the first Native American artist to be internationally recognized as a major American artist.
Artist R.C. Gorman was born in Chinle, Arizona, on July 26, 1931. Descended from generations of Navajo craftsmen, holy men, and tribal leaders, he was encouraged by a teacher at a mission school to develop his talent for art. After several years in the US Navy, he attended Arizona State College (now Northern Arizona University), but it was a visit to Mexico (1958) and then a year at the Mexico City College (now University of the Americas) that fixed his desire to be an artist.
After spending several years in San Francisco developing as a painter, he moved to Taos, NM. In 1965 he received a one-man exhibition in the Manchester Gallery there, and by 1968 his work was enjoying enough success that he bought the gallery, changed its name to Navajo Gallery, and began to exhibit and sell his own and other artists' work. The gallery was the first in the United States to be owned by a Native American. It remained for many years as his residence, studio, and gallery, where he was often present to deal personally with the growing numbers of other artists and the public who came by. From the 1970s, as his reputation spread throughout the USA and abroad, he moved on from working with oil, acrylic, and pastel to lithographs, ceramics, and occasional sculptures. Although he usually drew on SW Native American themes, he transformed them by his art into more universally significant, and aesthetic, subjects.
Reputed to be a genial, accessible man, known to be interested in food and cooking, and someone at home in the worlds of both his ancestors and international museums and academies, he is arguably the first Native American to be internationally recognized as a major American artist. Gorman died November 4, 2005, at a hospital in Albuquerque.
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