(1914 – 1994)
Mother’s Little Boy, carrara marble
“When people look at my things, I want them to see the simplicity of the form. I want them to feel the warmth of the material. I have a strong desire to stimulate their imaginations . . .” Allan Houser
Allan Houser, a Chiricahua Apache, was raised in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He worked a farm with his father, who instilled in him the history and traditions of his ancestors - their way of life, their hardships and their character. Houser’s inspiration stemmed from the stories and songs that he heard as a child.
Self taught in sculpture, Houser’s work is respected for its purity of form and self-contained dignity, restrained detail, and pleasing appearance from all angles. Among the artists he most admired - particularly for their interplay between space, movement and form - were Arp, Brancusi and Moore. Like them, Houser often used negative spaces to emphasize a three-dimensional quality in his abstract works. The human or animal form was simplified; composed of flowing convex and concave lines that created rich contrasts of light and dark.
He has been critically acknowledged as the “patriarch of Native American art,’ but in fact his work bridges the spirit of Apache culture and modern American life; communicating the immutable emotions of family love, dignity, and the will to endure.
Before his death from cancer in 1994, Houser was developing his interest in monumental welded sculpture and basic charcoal drawings
and is credited with reviving stone carving in this country.
Born in Apache, OK, Houser would become one of the 20th century’s most important artists. His parents, Sam and Blossom Haozous, were Warm Springs Chiricahua Apaches held as prisoners of war at Fort Sill in OK. Allan was instilled with a strong sense of history and cultural heritage. He was also gifted with a facility for drawing and an interest in art.
In 194 he moved to New Mexico to study at the Painting School of the Santa Fe Indian School. Becoming the school’s most famous graduate, he exhibited and sold his paintings and drawings and was selected for two major mural commissions in the late 30s. His first major sculpture was completed in 1948 as a commission to honor Native Americans who had lost their lives in WWII (Haskell Institute, Lawrence, KS) It would become the first of some 700 he would create over the next 50 years. He evolved a unique style of sculpture in which he assimilated experiences from his life with modernist sculptural aesthetics.
He and his wife raised a family of five sons. Allan taught art for 25 years at the Intermountain Indian School in Utah, then the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. As a teacher, his refined sense of design and honorable manner imbued thousands of students with an incomparable artistic influence.
Dedicating himself full time to his own work in 1975 Houser’s sculpture would be shown and admired throughout the US and Europe. As his international acclaim grew, his work was added to countless private collections, as well as many cooperate and museum collections. During his lifetime he was honored with a major retrospective and was presented the National Medal of the arts by US President Bush in 1992.
British Royal Collection, London
The White House, Washington DC
National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Inst. DC
National Portrait Glory
US Mission to the United Nations, NYC
Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe
Oklahoma State Capitol
Allan Houser is one of the top five American artists of a generation rich in artistry and quality… Houser’s works allow us insights into the yearning and dreams of mankind in a way virtually no other American artist has achieved in half a century…
Thomas Hoving, former director, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993
He was a student of the essence of sculpture. He liked the form and the power of it. He wasn’t looking for perfect realistic representation. He was looking at the essence of sculpture, at the purest part of sculpture – the form and design.”
Paul D. Gonzales, director of the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, 1994
It’s my bet that by the time the 21st century gets around to making a careful appraisal of Allan Houser’s art –the bronzes and, above all, the stone figures that survive – the works will be understood as the remarkable American icons that they are and treasured for what they tell us about ourselves, our future, and our past.
Allan in the proper framework of American art, and not just Indian art – that’s where Allan’s work needs to be addressed
Sculpture a gift 'to all people'
From The Associated Press, 1994
New Mexico sculptor Allan Houser will present a bronze sculpture to First Lady Hillary Rodham-Clinton at a ceremony April 28 in Washington D.C. "Our idea is to present it as a gift from the American Indian to all people," Houser said Thursday as he showed a small version of the piece to Governor Bruce King.
The sculpture -- 11 feet tall -- is already in Washington, where it will be installed at the Vice President's residence on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory.
The presentation will be held a day before President Clinton meets with hundreds of tribal leaders from around the nation. Some of those leaders and tribal elders are expected to attend the ceremony, and Houser said he hopes a medicine man will bless the work at the presentation. Entitled "May We Have Peace," the sculpture depicts an Indian holding aloft a sacred pipe, offering it to the Great Spirit. It was done in 1992.
Houser said the image -- a familiar and meaningful one to Indians -- is less abstract than much of his other work.
"On occasions like this, I want the people that know the ceremony to really appreciate it," the artist said.
Houser, a Chiricahua Apache, said he proposed the idea of donating a sculpture in a conversation with Mrs. Clinton last year. The first Indian to be awarded the National Medal of Arts, Houser, 79, has other works on public display and in private collections in Washington.