He attended the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in 1965-66. His Native American name was ‘pai-doung-u-day’ which translates into English as ‘one who stands in the sun.’ He was born in Oklahoma and his name was Tommy Wayne. To many in the art world he was known as T.C. Cannon. His paintings were labeled as new wave Indian Art that brought national attention to IAIA. His works landed in Life magazine, New Yorker magazine and The New York Times.
T.C. made his permanent home in 1974 at Santa Fe, N.M. He was killed four years later in a car crash at age 32. He told his IAIA friends he would die young. They asked him to stop talking like that. In a prophetic statement T.C. wrote about his end in an old sketch-book, “All I know is that you my friends will be far away when I die. None will see my final grimace of pain and smile of diamond clenched teeth bones on that final bed of sand and cactus out there where it gets lonely in the early summer rain.”
As IAIA celebrates its’ 50th anniversary, T.C. Cannon still holds a lasting memory with his 180 works and influence as an artist that broke ground for others to follow. ‘Aberbach Fine Art’ in New York published a posthumous 1979 memorial exhibit book entitled, ‘T.C. Cannon.’ The cover photo is his oil and acrylic on canvas portrait called, ‘Two Guns Arikara’ 1974-77. It’s of a traditionally dressed Indian man sitting in a chair holding two guns.
On December 10, 1979 the ‘Aberbach’ opened this memorial exhibit and later traveled to museums across the U.S. Joachim Jean Aberbach said, “His memory will live on in the hearts of those who love him and through the many acts of loving kindness which he performed and, above all, through the poetry of his writings and beauty and depth of works of art which he had created.”
That poetry and writing of T.C. sits alongside his artwork in this memorial book. Next to the ‘Two Guns Arikara’ portrait the words read, “My passion is, at the most, as great as yours and the sorrow passes with a glance as I stand out on the portal and look to a map of my soul in a personal part of the sky.”
There is the oil on canvas portrait called, ‘Bronze star virgin with trade cloth’ 1975. An Indian woman lies on a blanket topless holding a flower in her hand. Words on the opposite page read, “I saw the moon last night playing hopscotch on the pinon hills that slide gently southward below my snow covered crystal portal.”
The 154 page bound book has many sketches and paintings that were shown around the world. There are some important works to mention here, ‘His hair flows like a river’, ‘Small catcher’, ‘Indian portrait with beaded headdress’, ‘A remembered muse’, ‘Woman at the window’ and ‘Hopi with manta.’ This is a fine book collection of an artist who died before his time. The T.C. Cannon gallery of work lives on brightly.