Gorman, R. C.

Gorman, R. C. (Rudolph Carl)

(1931–  ) artist; born in Chinle, Ariz. Descended from generations of Navaho 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 U.S. Navy, he attended Arizona State College (now Northern Arizona University), but it was a visit to Mexico in 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 came to Taos, New Mexico; 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; it would remain 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 on, as his reputation spread throughout the U.S.A. and abroad, he moved on from working with oil, acrylic, and pastel to lithographs, ceramics, and occasional sculptures; although he usually drew on southwest 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 artist to be internationally recognized as simply a major American artist.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.