Allan Houser, 1915-1994 (Chiricahua Apache)
"Morning Prayer," Copyright (c) Allan Houser Inc., Acquisition made possible by the Perelman Charitable Foundation, modeled 1987, cast 1998, number 3 of 5, cast bronze, 115 inches x 43 inches x 38 inches.
In the quiet space that is the Grand Hall of the Eiteljorg Museum, the morning sun that streams in the east windows now falls on a serene figure, a monumental work of art created by a monumental artist.
The larger-than-life Native American figure is "Morning Prayer," a bronze by none other than acclaimed sculptor Allan Houser. The acquisition of the 1,200-pound sculpture of an Apache serenely murmuring the daily prayer was made possible by the Perelman Charitable Foundation.
The late Allan Houser is known as the patriarch of Native American contemporary fine art. He is credited with pushing Native American sculpture into the modem era without sacrificing its traditional elemental and enduring quality. He was a master in all sculptural media: stone, marble, limestone, alabaster, fabricated steel, plaster, clay and bronze. He influenced countless Native American artists, including Eiteljorg Museum friends and well-known sculptors Doug Hyde and Bill Prokopiof. And when he died in 1994 at the age of 80, he left a legacy of artwork of immeasurable, timeless beauty.
In 1992, Houser was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George Bush - the first Native American to receive this country's highest art award.
Houser won nearly every prestigious art award there is, including the American Indian Resources Lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award and France's Palmes d'Academique. His "Offering to the Great Spirit," installed in the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York in 1985, became a worldwide symbol of peace: a medicine man offering a pipe to the Great Spirit, arms outstretched toward the sky, humbly yet proudly asking for peace and freedom. In 1992, Houser was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George Bush - the first Native American to receive this country's highest art award. Bush said, "His hands transform bronze and stone to capture the true meaning of this country's unbroken spirit. His sculptures eloquently echo this nation's heritage of proud Apache chiefs and speak for the essential humanity of all Americans."
Houser was born to Chiricahua Apache parents Sam and Blossom Haozous near Fort Sill, Okla., in 1914. Sam Haozous was the grandson of renowned chief Mangas Coloradas and was imprisoned for 27 years, along with what remained of the Chiricahuas after their historic surrender to the U.S. government in 1886. While in prison, Haozous served as translator for Geronimo. The Chiricahuas were freed in 1913; a year later, Allan was born. He grew up on a small government-grant farm. As a child, he made drawings based on the stories told by his father of battles, hardships and buffalo hunts and on the songs sung by his mother about a mother's love for her children.
Houser carried out those themes in his drawings and sculptures. His subjects are mothers tenderly holding small children, courageous warriors defending their homes, ceremonial dancers carrying on the traditions of generations.
"My mother and father made me proud of who I am. I was always proud of them and the hardships they went through," he stated in an interview in 1990. "I'm always telling kids...You've got to feel good about yourself...I'm saying, 'Here you are, this is the way you are. This is the way we look. Look at the beauty.
Haozous (pronounced HOW-suss) means "pulling roots up out of the ground," which refers to the practice of returning thanks to the earth whenever we take something from her.
Allan Houser's son, Bob Haozous, is an important contemporary sculptor in his own right and was one of the artists who exhibited in Gifts of the Spirit at the Eiteljorg Museum in 1998.
Selected awards and honors:
Please Note: RLM does not endorse sites behind external links. We offer them for your additional research; external links were chosen on the basis of being the most informative online source at the time of our search.
For further biographical information on selected artists cited in this article please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.
Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.
Copyright 2010 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.