Peggy Lanning has owned and operated Turquoise Tortoise Gallery for 46 years as of this month, first in Glendale, Arizona, and then in Sedona since 1981. Even though she doesn’t have an education in fine art, it’s obvious she has an eye for quality. When she first met Navajo artist Tony Abeyta, he was an undiscovered talent still in his teens, but Peggy immediately recognized his potential. She was one of the first galleries to represent the mixed-media painter. Almost 35 years later, Tony continues to travel to Sedona for his annual springtime show. This year, Tony Abeyta: Underworld takes place May 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. Tony, whose work is in the permanent collections of the Heard Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, will give a talk at 6:30 p.m. He will be back in the gallery on May 6.
“I think Tony’s work is viewed not only with the eye but also the soul,” says Peggy. “He puts so much meaning into it. He’s highly educated, and his education has always been very important to him. I think it informs his paintings and adds to the wide scope of his work.”
Tony actually isn’t the artist Peggy has represented longest. That title goes to David Johns, whose work can be found in Turquoise Tortoise as well as Peggy’s more contemporary space, Lanning Gallery, which is located next door to Turquoise Tortoise. She says that in order to be successful in the gallery business, you must be people oriented. That’s obvious when you consider Peggy’s impetus for opening Lanning Gallery. A contemporary painter by the name of Alfred Rogoway walked through her door at Turquoise Tortoise and told her he wanted her to see his work. “His work wasn’t Native American, but when he showed it to me, I couldn’t believe it,” says Peggy. “I still get chills when I look at it.” It was that reaction that led Peggy to open Lanning Gallery in 1989 where she now represents more than 50 artists including her son, jeweler Michael Grant, one of her three children. (She represents 30 artists at Turquoise Tortoise.)
“If I’ve done anything to be proud of it’s that I’ve given this Earth three wonderful human beings in my children,” says Peggy, who’s now 84. “ They all live in Arizona, and they all work independently. They are scrappers.” – Erika Ayn Finch. Photo by Michael Thompson.
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