A tragic Taos story


This week we ran a 3,000 word story on the sale of the estate of R.C. Gorman, the famed Navajo artist who was a fixture of the Taos art scene for nearly 40 years.

The story has been in the works for months. I interviewed several Taoseños who knew Gorman well. I dug through six volumes of court records related to his probate case — a case in which even the attorneys had attorneys. I tracked down old business acquaintances who worked with Gorman for decades. I found art professionals who could hold my hand through the complicated maze of art and estate appraisal.

Over the course of my research on the disbursal of the estate, a tragic story emerged.

Gorman spent a humble childhood on the Navajo reservation, then skyrocketed to celebrity in the art world shortly after arriving in Taos. Many I spoke with lauded his nonchalant genius as an artist. Many also told stories of swinging soirees and Gorman's penchant for fine liquor.

His life had its ups and downs, but those closest to the artist loved him.

The disbursement of Gorman's estate was a messy affair that brought out bitterness among Gorman's family, friends and business associates. The process dragged on for six years, and in the end, it was the lawyers who made out like bandits, taking with them more than half the proceeds from the estate liquidation.

The story this week is by far the longest I've seen printed in our paper since I started. There was no way to run it in two parts. No way to cut the story off midstream. Like the estate, it had to go en masse.

Gorman was a complicated person. The handling of his estate was a complicated affair. And trying to fit all of this in the columns of our newspaper was a complicated task.

As far as I can tell, Gorman was well loved by his friends in Taos. They want to protect him, honor his work and remember his talent. Some would probably be happy to forget the less appealing parts of his life and afterlife.

The story this week wasn't all sunny, but it was fair and it was true and it was certainly newsworthy.

Gorman touched the lives of many longtime locals. In a way, Gorman's legacy is a big part of Taos' art legac


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