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 Ed Sandoval Gallery's Newsletter

102-B Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM 87571
(575) 770-6360
Memories of My Friend R.C. Gorman
RC Gorman (1931 - 2005) - Source
I’m pretty certain everybody is familiar with R.C. Gorman and his unique and instantly recognizable style of Native American female figures. To me, he's the most internationally prominent Navajo artist of all time - a painter and sculptor whose works are owned by celebrities and VIPs around the world. But I wanted to share memories of my personal relationship with him, a man who was bursting with life and joy. R.C. was generous, jovial, laid back and always ready for conversation, friends, laughter and bottles of wine.
My favorite memory about R.C. was when we first went out to dinner. He wanted to pay for dinner, so I said I would get the tip. After I put it on the table, R.C. looked at the tip, looked at me with a raised eyebrow, shook his head, and with a good-natured grin said, “Ed, you’ve just GOT to leave them more money than they expect. Tip well. Be generous. They will talk among themselves and remember you.” Needless to say, I rather awkwardly put more money on the table, and I have remembered (and tried to follow) his good advice to this day.

I first met R.C. at one of the notoriously fun parties he would throw at his house during Santa Fe’s Indian Market weekend. What parties! He loved shrimp, so there were huge platters of boiled and fried shrimp on a large table, along with all kinds of other food. A mariachi band played on the patio, and everyone was laughing, talking and dancing. It was a big deal! His house was spectacular too, with an indoor swimming pool (practically unheard of in Taos) and a painting studio with incredibly high ceilings. Elizabeth Taylor was a good friend of his, and I met her once at one of those parties. 

In-between the parties, I would go to his house for lunch. Rose, his housekeeper and cook, I think she had a crush on me and that’s one of the reasons why R.C. invited me so often. I wasn’t interested in Rose, but R.C. kept inviting me over, so I kept going! We had so much fun – opening bottles of wine and talking for hours. He just LOVED good wine, especially Malbec from Argentina (and I did too). 
Elizabeth Taylor, R.C. Gorman & Jim Griffin in Taos.- Source
Portrait of Me by Allen Polt
At that time, his favorite restaurant in Taos was “Bravo” that served the best roast chicken I’ve ever had. It was owned by a woman named Jo Ann, who loved art and commissioned numerous portraits by an extremely talented artist named Allen Polt. There were portraits all over the walls of Taos people – artists, notable people and colorful characters, including R.C.

One day, Allen told me he’d like to do a portrait of me, and of course I said yes. After that, it was so fun to eat at Bravo with R.C. because we both had our portraits hanging on the walls. If you’ve never seen Allen’s phenomenal work, you should check out his website – he’s done portraits of Clint Eastwood, Julia Roberts, Morgan Freeman, Russell Crow, Daniel Craig and Robert Redford just to name a few! He eventually married Jo Ann and now live in Phoenix. (Click for interview w/ Allen)
As famous as R.C. became, he never forgot his roots. A down-to-earth good guy, he was excited to see friends and always strived to help other artists. He came into my gallery many times to look at my work and offer guidance and support. He would say, “Ed, you have to have some kind of trademark…something distinctive so people will identify your work.” Of course, R.C.'s trademark was women. He loved, respected and was inspired by women. I can’t remember ever seeing one of R.C.’s paintings with a man in it.

R.C.'s advice continued, “You’re coming up with the spirit of the old man and that’s good. You should continue to paint that...you are exemplifying the vibrant culture of the Hispanic community.” To me, that was the best compliment I could ever receive. R.C. even bought one of my paintings, which was such a humbling experience. 
That’s who R.C. was – giving, kind and simply brimming with joy and laughter. He donated his artwork to just about everything you can think of (all the Taos charity galas and fundraisers) and even slipped cash to people down on their luck.

At the time, there were some people around town who talked trash about R.C. and put him down for some of his life choices. I was (and still am) so upset and angry about that. Petty, bitter, little people who have to tear someone else down to build themselves up and feel good. 
"Navajo Velvet" - Source
Navajo Code Talker Carl N. Gorman, Dress Blues - Source
Did you know that R.C.’s father, Carl N. Gorman, was one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers who served in World War II?

Anthony, his grandson, writes and speaks about Carl Gorman, who was the oldest member of the pilot group of Navajo Code Talkers, the First Twenty-Nine, and how Platoon 382 created a fully functional code out of their Navajo language that helped the United States win the Pacific War. (Source)

Thank God the Navajo held onto their land, culture and language because they stumped the Japanese. We owe them a huge debt. Anthony adds that Carl was “one of the early Indian artists to break away from what was called Indian art. In his own way, he opened a lot of doors for his son, R.C.” (Source)

When R.C. died on Nov. 6, 2005, the Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. ordered Navajo Nation flags to be flown at half-staff and called R.C. the “Picasso of the Southwest, child of the Navajo Nation.” (Source) I love that phrase and find it very fitting: R.C. Gorman - The "Picasso of the Southwest."
I’m so disappointed and upset by what happened after his death. Apparently, there was a family squabble about how his estate should be divided. The in-fighting went on for years and years, with only the lawyers benefiting from the constant bickering and the back-and-forth lawsuits. In the end, his estate was auctioned off at a fraction of what it was worth: houses, land, artwork and (what's most heartbreaking) the rights to all of his artwork.

Bless his heart – R.C. deserved better. We all deserved better. At the very least, his main house should have been turned into a museum for the enjoyment and education of future generations. I honor his life, I admire his spirit, I recognize his greatness, I respect his well-earned legacy, but, most of all, I miss my friend.
The Death Cart: Penitentes and Easter
Next month, many will be celebrating Holy Week and Easter, which always reminds me of the Penitente Brotherhood and their meeting places – moradas. Taos Valley has a long history of secretive Penitente activity, where membership was restricted almost exclusively to Spanish-Americans who also belonged to the Catholic Church.

Of course, New Mexico was part of Mexico way back in the 17th century. According to Albert Martinez, " The church in Mexico basically ignored the northern frontier and as a result the local people developed their own way of celebrating the birth and death of Christ. A group that is referred to today as the Penitentes took over the task of caring for the spiritual needs of the villages of Nuevo Mexico."

Martinez continues, " One important aspect of the many duties of the Penitentes was to celebrate the Passion of Christ during Holy Week. Death carts, with the figure of La Muerte, or Doña Sebastiana, appeared in processions during Holy Week. A member of the Penitente brotherhood would drag the heavy cart from the Morada, or meeting place, to the Calvario, or symbolic Calvary, atop a nearby hill. The carts represented the ever-looming specter of Death and reminded people of the miracle of Christ’s triumph over death. It was also a reminder to the faithful that death is ever-present, and of the importance of leading a virtuous life in order to enter the kingdom of heaven." (Read his full article here).

The death cart is just one of the many unique forms of New Mexico's religious iconography. Religion here is deeply felt, elaborate and somewhat tangible...you can almost reach out and touch it. Walk into any village church - the paintings, statues and carvings tell the stories of not just the beliefs, but also the people who hold them.
Ed's Painting of the Death Cart (2003)
This Death Cart at El  Santuario de Chimayo Shows the T errifying Figure of La Muerte.
Featured Paintings

To inquire or to request a high-resolution photograph, please contact Ed at 575-770-6360 or  edsandovalart@gmail.com .
NEW: "High Country Aspens" (15" x 30")
NEW: "The Pottery Maker" (24" Diameter)
"La Fonda de Taos" (44" x 56")
"A Moment in the Past (31" x 50")
Beautiful Picuris Mountains near My Home South of Taos
Would you like to be a featured collector?
If so, please send your personal story and photo(s) to edsandovalart@gmail.com.
Ed Sandoval Gallery  
 102-B Paseo Del Pueblo, Taos, NM 87571
www.edsandovalgallery.com | (575) 770-6360 | edsandovalart@gmail.com