Allan Houser (Chiricahua Apache) 1914 - 1994
Alabama marble, 48.5" x 24" x 24"
The Heard Museum, Phoenix,
Gift of The Gallery Wall, Inc. In honor of the museum's Golden
Allan Houser has been referred to as the Grandfather
of Contemporary Native American sculpture. He has without question had the most
influence in establishing the cannons of Native sculpture. He was a member of
the 1962 inaugural faculty at the Institute of American Indian Art (IAIA) and
over the years there taught hundreds of students about sculpture. His subjects
are grounded in a respect for his Apache culture and for all Indian people.
Many of his themes are based on stories he heard from his father about the
lifeways of the Apache people before the coming of the Europeans. Houser has
blended the influences of the Mexican muralists with the sculptural designs of
British artists Henry Moore to create his distinctive "Indian" sculptural
style. His work has and is the marker on which all others are judged.
As a young man Houser began his formal art training at the Santa Fe
Indian School in a newly formed studio class. The class was taught by a young
Chicago Art Institute graduate and became known as "The Studio." Houser and the
students of The Studio became known for their distinct painting style of pastel
colors that were outlined to create a flat and two-dimensional quality. This
style of painting later became known as "Traditional Indian painting." It was
at the height of his painting career that Houser began to experiment with the
three-dimensional media. He first experimented with wood carvings, later
working in stone and bronze. He was commissioned in 1968 to create his first
monumental piece for Haskell Indian College in Lawrence, Kansas.
"Earth Song," depicts an Apache man singing a song of respect, a
prayer to Mother Earth. The rhythm of his prayer is measured by the beats of
his water drum as he sings to thank the earth for sustaining all living forms.
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