QUINCY TAHOMA

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Navajo Artist Quincy Tahoma (1918-1956), a highly gifted painter, studied at the Santa Fe Indian School along with other well-regarded Indian artists such as Harrison Begay and Andy Tsihnahjinnie. Art teacher Dorothy Dunn encouraged her students to paint in a flat and decorative style specific to early 20th-century, studio-taught painting, but Tahoma incorporated more action and varied techniques in his work.

The Roundup – 1956

Born near Tuba City, Arizona, the artist spent most of his life in Santa Fe, New Mexico, producing hundreds of paintings over two decades from the mid 1930s to 1956. Due in large measure to his premature death, Tahoma’s contribution to Native American art, as well as the triumphs and tragedies in his life, have remained somewhat invisible to the generations that followed.

Quincy Tahoma as seen in Desert Magazine 1942

Following the maze of information about Quincy Tahoma’s life (1918-1956) has consumed well over ten years. At times we were tempted to abandon the biography, and instead, write the live mystery story that we were living. This blog will begin to tell that backstory.

Although his paintings are acclaimed, and people still compete at auctions to own one of the several hundred paintings he left behind, few people could answer the basic questions that Charnell started asking back in 1995.

Where was he born? When? Were there family members still living? Where did he learn to paint? What and who were the major influences on his art?

Many compendiums of information about American Indian Artists include short biographies of Tahoma. As soon as Charnell and Vera Marie were able to find people who knew Tahoma during his lifetime, they learned that very few of the “facts” published about him were correct.

This blog  reveals some of the backstory of writing a biography of a Navajo artist, born before birth records were kept. To complicate matters, he invented much of the information about his origins that he shared with friends during his lifetime. We were fortunate to interview more than fifty people who either knew Tahoma personally or knew him through stories of their parents or other relatives.

We will share some of those stories here, and encourage anyone who can add more personal knowledge to let us know.  We welcome your contact at  charnell@charnell.com or verabadert@gmail.com

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4 Responses to QUINCY TAHOMA

  1. David Grindell says:

    I own a painting by Tahoma. It is at once captivating, but yet there are strange things about it. My grandfather described these anomilies as “screwy.” I have done some research and found that this one is his style, but I have not reviewed enough of his paintings to be able to say whether or not this one is “screwy” in comparison to others. It is signed with his last name and appears to be dated in 1946. On the painting this is represented with the four over the six, and the downward stroke of the four connects with the top of the six. It sure looks like a date but I have no basis to make that judgement. It is framed and has been for as long as I can remember. We modernized the frame around 1994, as the origional was huge and did not appear to flatter the work. If you would like I will send a photo. If you would consider taking a look I would appreciate it. Thank you for your time.

  2. pen4hire says:

    Thanks for letting us know about your paitning, David. I have e-mailed you about it, but on reading your note, I am intrigued to know whether this is an authentic Tahoma, painted on a bad day, or just creative!

  3. David Grindell says:

    I was able to access a few more pics of Tahoma’s work. In my very uneducated opinion, it is the same man. The signature in yellow appeared almost identical. However, I will take a picture and attempt to send it along for you to look at. My Grandfather was the superintendant of the School for the Deaf there until the early ’60s. There is a very good chance he actually knew the man. My father, a Scots-Irishman, taught art at the Indian School and we lived on campus when I was 2-5 or so. He also had a studio he shared with another artist for awhile. Both my parents are unreliable sources of information due to advanced age. However, I cannot ever recall my father disputing my grandfather as to the “screwy” stuff, but he also never commented on the artist and may have known him also. When I say things are strange in it, I am talking about, for instance, a rabbit that is running out from under the horses hooves that does not come accross as sized proportionately. The pony also has one black (lower, just over the hoove) foreleg and just doesn’t seem to be as thick as it should be if it were healthy. One of the bigger things to me was the tree branches. They appear out of the sky, the middle one as if the point of view is from the tree trunk itself. Anyway, I am horrible at the supposedly easy access camera I have and putting pics on the computer or emails, so it may take me a few days to get you descent pics be we can work it out one way or another. Thank you so much for responding.

  4. Jim Skiff says:

    I just listed a nice little Tahoma on ebay of a Navajo Child With Pets.

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