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Allan Houser Biography

Traditional beliefs, customs, songs, stories, ideology, and nature contributed to a cultural worldview expressed through a lifetime of artistic work: Allan Houser June 30, 1914-August 22, 1994.

By Valerie Rangel
Sponsored by the Paul C. S. Carpenter History Project and funded by the King/Carpenter Charitable Trust

Regionally acknowledged as a master in all sculptural media: stone, marble, limestone, alabaster, fabricated steel, plaster, clay, and bronze; internationally recognized for Native American contemporary fine art: modernist sculpture, painting, drawing, and murals, Allan Houser neared 50 solo exhibitions in museums and galleries in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Among many awards and achievements, Houser received the American Indian Resources Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award, and became the first Native American awarded the National Medal of Arts by George Bush. Drawing inspiration from past and present, regional influences and cultural survivance, Houser’s most distinguishing works are the portrayals of mothers and children, Apache, Navajo, Plains, and Pueblo people.


Allan Houser was born to Chiricahua Apache parents Sam and Blossom Haozous near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Sam Haozous’ paternal lineage stems from Bedonkohe and Warms Springs Mimbrenos bands, and Sam was the maternal grandson of chief Mangas Coloradas. During incarceration at Fort Sill, Sam Haozous, grand-nephew of Geronimo, served as a translator for the Apache Leader.

Sam Haozous was with the small band of Warm Springs Chiricahuas when their leader, Geronimo, surrendered to the U.S. Army September 3, 1886, in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. The men had been promised by General Miles that they would be housed at Fort Marion with their wives and children; instead the group of men along with Naiche and Geronimo were incarcerated at Fort Pickens, Florida, on the other side of the state.


Sam Haozous was among the women and children jailed at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida. Allan's mother, Blossom Haozous was born in the prison camp at the Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama. Both Sam and Blossom remained prisoners of war for twenty three years until the emancipation of the Apache people in 1913. The tribe was given the choice of sharing a reservation with the Mescalero Apache in Southern New Mexico, or accepting lands near Fletcher, and Apache. Allan’s parents were among the few Apaches who chose to stay in Oklahoma creating small farming communities on government-grant farms in Apache and Lawton, Oklahoma. Shortly after their release from captivity, Sam and Blossom changed their name from the Apache name, "Haozous" (Ha-oo-zohs), which means the sound of pulling roots, to the non-Indian "Houser". Allan Houser was born, June 30, 1914, on a farm near Fort Sill, Oklahoma.


Most of Houser’s formative years, were spent laboring in fields of cotton and  alfalfa, growing vegetables, raising livestock and horses. Inspired by book and magazine illustrations, he began drawing and carving bars of soap. The subjects of his sculptures and drawings throughout his life were based on the knowledge gained during his formative years; illustrations of battles, hardships, and buffalo hunting stories told by his father, and songs sung by his mother. In an interview Houser states, "I could never turn away from my history. That’s the part of me that made me what I am now. The strength that I have is my pride in who I am. My heritage”. At age 15, Allan stopped attending school in order to help his father run their farm. Upon reaching age 19, he decided to enroll in the Painting School at the Santa Fe Indian School, in Santa Fe, NM, founded by Dorothy Dunn. Quickly mastering the skills of painting, his work was exhibited in San Francisco, Washington D. C., and Chicago.

 In 1939, Allan married Anna Marie Gallegos, and in the same year he received a commission to paint a mural in the Department of Interior building in Washington; its success led to a second mural commission there in 1940. The couple and their three young sons moved to Los Angeles in 1941 where Allan sought employment during World War II, working in construction by day, and his art by night. During this time in California, Allan visited museum exhibitions abroad, and was largely influenced by European modernists such as Brancusi, Arp, Lipschitz, and Henry Moore.

 
Taking on the task of learning to sculpt stone on his own, he completed his first major marble sculpture, "Comrade in Mourning", in 1948; a memorial sculpture honoring the Native American students from Haskell who had died in World War II, commissioned by the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. Then in 1949, Houser was awarded the Guggenheim fellowship for painting and sculpture, which allowed him to return to Arizona and Oklahoma to pursue the study of Indian subjects, and learn traditional beadwork and crafting skills.  Between, 1951 – 1962, the Houser family moved to Brigham City, Utah, where Allan taught art at the Inter-Mountain Indian School, during which time he illustrated seven children’s books, continued to paint, and produce small wooden sculptures.  In 1962, he joined the faculty of the newly created Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, creating a sculpture department, embarking on a new era focused on creating sculptures.

 He mastered all sculptural media: stone, marble, limestone, alabaster, fabricated steel, plaster, clay, and casting his first bronze works in 1968, at Nambe in Pojoaque, New Mexico. Shortly thereafter, museums and private collectors began acquiring his work.

 Now, with resources available to him, Houser retired from teaching in 1975, devoting himself full-time to his own work. In the same year, he was asked to paint the portrait of former U.S. Secretary of the Department of Interior, Stewart Udall. A year later he became the focus of a PBS television documentary, “Allan Houser: Working Sculptor”. Between 1977 up until the time of his death, he created monumental pieces of art commemorating the Apache history and heritage; one of his most notable pieces of art is, “Chiricauhua Apache Family”, a sculpture honoring the memory of his parents and commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the release of the Apache prisoners of war from Fort Sill, instilled at the Fort Sill Apache Tribal Center in Apache, Oklahoma, in 1983.

 In a vision for the future, Houser advocates for the preservation of cultural identity of the American Indian in the bronze sculpture, “The Future Chiricahua Apache Family”, a piece commissioned for an organization dedicated to helping Indian children in the Southwest, stands in front of a building in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Shortly before his death, in 1994, Houser presented the United States government with the sculpture, “May We Have Peace”, a gift, he said, ‘To the people of the United States from the First Peoples”. The gift was accepted by Fist Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, and was installed at the Vice-President’s residence.

 Houser’s sculptures are proudly displayed throughout the southwest, his sculpture, “Abstract Crown Dancer”, was selected as one of fifteen works showcasing the talents of New Mexico artists, commissioned by the City of Albuquerque at the Albuquerque International Airport. His metal sculpture, “When Friends Gather ”, depicting three Pueblo women wrapped in blankets, is permanently displayed at the state capital building in Santa Fe, NM. Houser took on the challenge of teaching himself how to sculpt stone and work with metal, defying concepts of ‘traditional Indian art’ by incorporating aspects of Abstract modernism to covey cultural concepts of beauty, balance, and reverence for the earth. He became a widely celebrated and highly acclaimed artist and master sculptor who was also a musician, storyteller, educator, father, and grandfather.


Allan Houser died August 22, 1994, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the age of eighty, leaving behind a wife that he had been married to for fifty-five years, and five sons: Lonnie, Roy, Stephen, Philip Haozous; a well known Native artist, and Robert (Bob) Haozous; also well known artist in the genre of political art. Allan Houser, Inc. was established in 1982, its mission stands to preserve and present the lifetime work of the Master Artist through a foundry which continues to make contributions to the New Mexico Children’s Museum, operates a gallery in downtown Santa Fe, and reproduces limited edition works from original molds or patterns created by Allan Houser.

 Allan Houser’s legacy continues to be displayed internationally. The most recent exhibit started October 24, 2008 – December, 2009. This major exhibit, “Unconquered: Allan Houser and the Legacy of One Apache Family, Oklahoma City OK”, will feature

artifacts, film, and works of art from five generations of one Apache family/the Haozous/Houser clan; spanning the timeframe of 1860s – 2008. Featured works of Allan and his sons, Bob and Phillip Haozous will be displayed throughout the galleries and grounds of the History Center. Allan Houser’s bronze sculpture, the “Unconquered”, stands facing the rising sun just outside the entrance to the Oklahoma History Center. The exhibit takes visitors through the personal story of cultural survival, incarceration, and a legacy of artistic expression of the Apaches.

 
Even after his death, honors continue and his fame spreads. A New Oklahoma License Plate will feature one of Allan Houser's most famous pieces of sculpture, “Sacred Rain Arrow”.  The new Oklahoma license plate will be issued to all new and expiring registrations starting January 2, 2009, eventually appearing on millions of vehicles. On December 19, 2008, the City of Santa Fe honored Allan Houser the unveiling of a plaque on the Santa Fe Artists Walk of Fame. Bob Haozous, Allan Houser’s son,  Bob Haozous said,  "Our family is delighted that the city which Allan came to as a student in 1934, and which he made his home for over 40 years, is honoring his contribution." Work from three generations of the Houser/Haozous family, were featured at the Community Gallery of The Santa Fe Convention Center, January, 9 2009 through March 6, 2009. In April, 2009, Washington College acquired a major collection of Allan Houser sculptures for their permanent collection.


While teaching in the 1950’s at the Intermountain School in Brigham City, UT, Allan Houser illustrated children’s books. The exhibit, “Native American Books of Change,” at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, NM featured seven original paintings by Allan Houser, originally published as book illustrations. They are among 120 such original paintings and pen & ink drawings in the Allan Houser Archives.

 
Sources:

  1. Sturtevant, William C. Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 20, Southwest. Volume Editor: Alfonso Ortiz. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 1983.
  2. Ball, Eve; Henn, Nora; Sanchez, Lynda A. (1988). Indeh: An Apache Odyssey (reprint). University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-2165-3.
  3. Allan Houser, Inc. (http://www.allanhouser.com)
  4. Perlman, Barbara H. “Allan Houser: (Ha-o-zous).  Washington, D.C., Glen Green Galleries, 1992.
  5. Morrison, George. Edited by Truman T. Lowe. “Native modernism: the art of George Morrison and Allan Houser”.
  6. “The dean of stone” [videorecording], KNME-TV. Producer and Editor, Matthew Sneddon; Executive Producer Dale Kruzic. Albuquerque, N.M.,KNME-TV, 2005.
  7.  “Apache visions in stone: the art of Allan Houser” [videorecording]. Producer and Editor, Matthew Sneddon; Executive Producer, Dale Kruzic; Produced by KNME-TV, Albuquerque, N.M., Tellens [distributor], 2000.
  8. {Allan Houser Haozous: the lifetime of an American master” [videorecording]. Santa Fe, NM : Allan Houser, Inc., 1998
  9. After the storm: the Eiteljorg Fellowship for Native American Fine Art, 2001 / edited by W. Jackson Rushing III. Indianapolis, IN: Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, 2001.
  10. Rushing, W. Jackson. “Allan Houser, an American master: (Chiricahua Apache, 1914-1994)”.W. Jackson Rushing III. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2004.