It's a trite expression to refer to someone as a "legend in their own time." Dali and Picasso undoubtedly deserved such a distinction, along with perhaps Norman Rockwell, Jackson Pollock, and Georgia O'Keefe from this country. They're all dead though. Perhaps the only artist living today who can fairly be tagged with such a celebrated calling is Rudolph Carl Gorman. Known as R.C., there's nothing about the name to suggest his Navajo background or his thirty years of artistic achievement in Southwestern Art. Indeed, today, collections of his work cut across geography and Native American subject matter with admirers all across the country. To add yet another trite designation to his persona, many have called him the "Picasso of American Indian Art," or sometimes the "Navajo Picasso." He confesses to being startled somewhat the first time he heard the phrase, but it's not something to which he gives much thought, and in fact, it may be more PR than fact, in that there is little in his many styles or subject matter that even remotely resembles Picasso. Perhaps the only valid comparision would be that like Picasso, he has had MANY styles and tried nearly ever artistic medium known to man.
R.C. is flippant when asked about his influences. "I'm a genius. I've never been influenced by anyone or anything." Then he lists Dali, O'Keefe, Rivera, Siqueiros, Orozco, and a half-dozen others who have "inspired" him. His training is as varied as his inspirations, from Northern Arizona University, to Guam Territorial Collage, and extensive studies in Mexico where he picked up a background in Spanish Academic art. During the early 1960s Gorman lived and worked in San Francisco--worked at the post office, lived on almost nothing, and moonlighted as a Native American model, though he notes that his severices as an artist's model were often more in demand MINUS his indian garb. Perhaps as a consequence of this, Gorman always works from live models himself. His most consistant subject matter is the Navajo woman whom he has painted and drawn in nearly every conceivable circumstances from seductress to septuagenarian.
Though originally a painter, R.C. Gorman's work can now be found in media as diverse bronze sculpture, lithographs, monoprints (not his favorite medium), ceramics, etchings, charcoal, and cast paper, as well as oils, acrylics, and watercolor. In 1968 he purchased his own gallery in Taos where he has become something of a living breathing symbol of this overwhelming "arty" community. He's also very much a tourist attraction. Though he no longer lives and works "on display" from his gallery, he signs autographs just like a movie star and warmly greets perfect strangers from a solitary table in his favorite eating establishments. Today he is a one-man industry, a tribute to his marketing genius as well as that of his art, employing a retinue of accountants, managers, PR agents, sales reps, printers, craftsmen, various assistants. He tells stories about of meeting American presidents and sharing an elevator with (and being recognized by) Salvador Dali. He came to Taos in 1964 and today lives and works from a lavish mansion on the outskirts of town; where, like many of us, he admits he fights off the bane of all artists--laziness. Given his international fame, many are surprised he's taken up permanent residence in Taos. Gorman reminds them that he owns a small cemetary next door to his home which already boasts a modest marker with his name on it. "You can't get more permanent than that."