Post by Vera
Quincy Tahoma was a hit with the ladies. All through his life they flocked around him. Valentine’s Day might just have been his favorite holiday after Christmas, the date that he adopted for his birthday. Not that he did anything to discourage the attention. Now we would not want to say he was vain, but while still a school boy, Tahoma did spend some of the money he made selling paintings on “hair slick.” Joe Sando, who grew up to become an expert on Pueblo history and author of many books, told me that the younger boys like Joe, used to sneak into Quincy’s dorm room at Santa Fe Indian School and “borrow” some of the pre-mousse hair stuff–most likely “Brillcreme, a little dab ‘l do you.” (If you are humming that advertising jingle, we know how old you are!) And the boy WAS good looking. Oh, my. So many people have commented to us about his thick, wavy dark hair and his friendly smile. It is captured well in photographs that he liked to hand out to friends.
We can’t say for sure, but the well known photographer T. Harmon Parkhurst, who gave Tahoma a place to work in his studio near the Santa Fe Plaza, probably snapped some of those pictures.
Because so many of these photos, and others have come back to us, we know that the Navajo painter handed them out frequently. Now does that sound like a modest, retiring gentleman to you? Nah. Quincy Tahoma KNEW he was good looking. The picture shown here came from the daughter of his old friend, Kee Yazzie, but most of the pictures we retrieved came from old girlfriends.
Charnell wrote about a visit with one of the first people she found who knew Tahoma personally. Quincy had a serious, and rather surprising, romance with Jean Wallace (McSwain). A couple of people have told us stories about a Navajo girlfriend at Santa Fe Indian School, but after he left school, as far as we know, most of his girlfriends were non-Indian. There is a romantic tale about the attraction between Tahoma and a quiet Pueblo girl which her mother put an end to, but that girlfriend, now a widow and a grandmother, is not talking.
Nina Bogard, on the other hand, was happy to talk to us and tell us about her summer fling at a guest ranch. She was only 16 and thought that Tahoma was in his mid-twenties, but he was actually about thirty. They both enjoyed horses and riding and spent happy days on the ranch where her mother had a summer job. She gave us photographs and a long letter that he wrote to her.
According to Harrison Begay, Taoma had a fling with a rich white woman from the East who came to New Mexico looking for sexual adventures with the “exotic” Native American men. Artist Begay told us the story about the woman who took Quincy on a merry ride (quite literally) through northern New Mexico and Arizona. Quincy thought she was serious, and bought a ring and took a train back east to track her down, but she turned him down and sent him back to New Mexico.
You see, Quincy Tahoma was a hopeless romantic. He really wanted to get married, and he fervently pursued one possible mate after another, never with success. He painted pictures for them, gave them his photograph, gave them elaborate gifts, somehow managed to hide his drinking sprees from them, but he remained single to the end of his life.
You can learn more about the romantic side of Quincy Tahoma in our book, Quincy Tahoma: The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist, published by Schiffer Books in April 2011. We even print a couple of pages from the love letter to Nina, and show you photographs of Jean and Nina.
Do you have any theories as to why Tahoma apparently did not pursue Navajo girls or women? He always claimed that he did not know his clan, although we believe he did learn as an adult that he was named for his mother’s clan. Would that have stopped him? Was he attempting to fit in to the white society? Did he not feel worthy of diné families because of his drinking and because he lived in a different society? We would like to hear your theories.