Terry Victory calls her husband the Forrest Gump of the art world because of the lucky coincidences in his life.
A case in point: Oklahoma native Poteet Victory’s first stop in New York City as a young man was at a brownstone owned by pop artist Andy Warhol, who tried to learn some of Victory’s silk-screen secrets.
So it seems fitting that one of the first people to set foot in the couple’s new Victory Contemporary gallery at 124 W. Palace Ave. was the actor who brought the lovable Gump to the silver screen. Shortly after the Victorys acquired the Felipe B. Delgado House from the Historic Santa Fe Foundation in late 2019, Tom Hanks and the production of “News of the World” moved into the former bank office.
The empty building was transformed into a Victorian-era law office in San Antonio for the film, which tells the story of a Texan traveling across the Wild West who relays world events to media-deprived townspeople.
It was touch and go whether Poteet Victory would get to meet Hanks, but he did in the courtyard behind the building, where the production’s craft services table was set up, after the actor wrapped a long day of shooting.
It was a thrill to meet Hanks, Victory said in a recent interview, but the best part was the rent paid by the film company to use his gallery as a set for two weeks was enough to pay the mortgage on his new building for six months.
As Terry and Poteet Victory prepare to open their doors to the public, renovations are going on nonstop in the two-story Delgado building, which dates to 1890. As Terry Victory cleaned off a door on a recent day, workers on scaffolding outside the gallery were painting the historic cornice that frames a door on the balcony of the second floor.
The courtyard behind the building, which had been a parking lot for First National Bank of Santa Fe, now known as First National 1870, is being transformed into a sculpture garden that will feature large steel pieces by artist Robert Romero, as well as works by other artists.
Days before, the painstaking restoration of a Victorian-style staircase had been completed after carpeting and cement were removed to reveal the original wood, which had to be sanded and finished. “The money’s flying out the window,” quipped Poteet Victory in an Oklahoma drawl.
Still, there’s no question Victory is proud to own the building where his eponymous gallery is located. Over on Canyon Road, the rent had risen to $10,500 a month for the 2,800-square-foot space where his work had been displayed for 11 years. The couple has no plans ever to sell their new digs, which has 3,700 square feet of exhibition space. “I want to leave this to my grandson, with the provision that he can’t sell it until he’s 50,” said Poteet Victory.
Oddly enough, Victory was very familiar with the Delgado House because he used to do his private banking there when First National Bank occupied the space.
Now, instead of financial advisers talking about stocks, bonds and trusts, Terry Victory presides over the homey gallery, which features her husband’s paintings, as well as those by Tal Walton and Chuck Middlekauf, along with sculptures and jewelry.
Many of the works by Poteet Victory, who is of Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, reflect Native themes. But the artist also has created a series of symbolist representations of celebrities that he has dubbed “abbreviated portraits.”
The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman and Prince are just a few of the abbreviated portraits on display at Victory Contemporary. The large versions of the portraits hang on the second floor of the gallery, while smaller renditions are mounted behind Poteet Victory’s desk on the first floor.
“Excuse me while I brag about my husband,” exults Terry Victory. “He’s too modest to tell you that he’s invented a new art form.”
Victory said he got the idea for the abbreviated portraits 11 years ago, around the same time he and Terry got married, and he opened the Canyon Road gallery in partnership with Chris McLarry. (Initially, the gallery at 225 Canyon Road was known as McLarry Modern before changing its name to Victory Contemporary.)
“I noticed the kids weren’t spelling out the words in full when they were texting each other,” explained Victory. “I decided to experiment with paintings that featured just the memorable characteristics of iconic figures. My first one was Marilyn Monroe with her beauty mark.”
Although some well-heeled buyers, including a Walmart heiress, have offered to take Marilyn off his hands, Victory said she’s not for sale.
While Poteet Victory would seem to have a charmed life, he’s had his fair share of disappointment. One heartbreaking chapter involved a giant mural that he began painting for the University of Oklahoma in 2000. The massive work, called “Trails of Tears,” is Victory’s representation of the white man’s conquest of Native tribes.
Working with a Chinese graduate student, it took Victory two years to complete the mural, which shows the Ark of the Covenant descending on a group of Natives from different tribes while a skeleton in the sky hovers above. The depiction ruffled feathers because it was perceived as being disrespectful to Christianity. Ultimately, the mural, which was to be 56 feet wide by 16 feet tall in three sections, was rejected by the university and put into storage.
“I was really happy when I saw Steven Spielberg call the extermination of Natives the ‘American Holocaust’ in a TV interview,” Victory said. “I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject. When Columbus arrived in the New World, there were 29 million Natives in what is now the United States. By 1890, there were just 250,000 left.”
Since he owns the work, Victory has the opportunity to try and place “Trails of Tears’ in another venue, perhaps the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian on the Mall in Washington, D.C. But Victory said the rejection of his work was so painful that he doesn’t want to deal with the mural any more.
“It has a life of its own,” he said as he showed off a miniature version of “Trails of Tears.”
Victory said there was a lot of animosity against non-Natives on the Cherokee side of his family because his great-grandfather witnessed the execution of his parents by “renegade white settlers.”
Despite the dark legacy, Victory remains a positive person. He paints every day in a studio on the second floor of the new gallery and also teaches.
Victory said his students want to know how he achieves a smooth surface on his paintings.
“They say, ‘Tell us about the finish,’ and I say, ‘I’m not going to give away the secret,’ ” he said.