Museums across Oklahoma are honoring Native American artist Allan Houser’s memory in celebration of his 100th birthday, and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum kicks off the collaboration with the original exhibition “Allan Houser and His Students.” Organized by the late Anne Morand, Curator of Art, the exhibition looks at Houser (1914-1994) as teacher and mentor. It includes works by Houser from the permanent collection, along with those by students and protégés such as Bob Hazaos, Kevin Red Star, Doug Hyde, Robert Chee, Earl Bliss, T.C. Cannon and Fritz Scholder.
One of the 20th Century’s most important artists, Allan C. Haozous was born on June 30, 1914 and later became known as Allan Houser. His parents, Sam and Blossom were members of the Chircahua Apache tribe and for 27 years were held as prisoners of war. The couple became freed at last in 1914. Houser was born in Oklahoma just months after their release, the first child born out of captivity. Houser’s family created farms in the Apache and Lawton communities.
At an early age Houser became interested in the images he saw in magazines and books. He soon began his own drawings and carvings. In 1934, he enrolled in the Painting School at the Santa Fe Indian School where he became their most famous student. By 1939 his work was exhibited in major US cities, and he was first commissioned to paint a mural in the Department of Interior building.
In 1939 Houser married Anna Marie Gallegos. Together they moved to Los Angeles with their three sons in 1941 as Houser looked for work. It was there he was greatly influenced by the works of European modernists such as Brancusi, Arp, Lischitz and Henry Moore.
Houser moved to Utah in 1951 where he taught art at the Inter-Mountain Indian School. In 1962, he was asked to join the faculty of the newly created Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. There he created the sculpture department and began integrating the aesthetics of the modernists with his narrative ideas. In the late 1960s museums began seeking out his works, and his influence became apparent on hundreds of students and other artists.
In 1975, Houser retired from teaching to devote time to his work. In the following decades he would produce nearly 1,000 sculptures in stone, wood and bronze. He worked tirelessly until his death on Aug. 22, 1994.
Nationally accredited, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum is located in Oklahoma City's Adventure District at the junction of I-44 and I-35. The Museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (405) 478-2250 or visit www.nationalcowboymuseum.org.