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Students visiting the Betty Price Gallery during a visit to the Oklahoma State Capitol via a Capitol Art Travel Subsidies Grant.

Allan Houser at the Capitol: A Legacy in Bronze

Oklahoma State Capitol, Oklahoma City
January 15 - December 15, 2014

A special exhibit on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol, Allan Houser at the Capitol: A Legacy in Bronze is part of a statewide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of renowned Oklahoma artist Allan Houser. Born June 30, 1914, Houser's impact on Native American art as a form of expression made him one of the 20th century's most influential artists.

Through December 15, 2014, visitors to the Capitol can view five temporary, large-scale bronze sculptures created by Houser along with his permanent Capitol sculpture, As Long as the Waters Flow, and learn more about Houser's life and legacy. A cell phone audio tour accompanying the exhibit is available.

Sculptures included in the special exhibit on the Capitol grounds:

Singing Heart by Allan Houser
Singing Heart by Allan Houser
Photo copyright Chiinde LLC,
photos courtesy of Allan Houser Inc.

Public Reception
Monday, March 10, 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.
With a tour led by Dr. Bob Blackburn
First Floor Rotunda

In 1984, Oklahoma Governor George Nigh and the Oklahoma Arts Council designated Allan Houser as the first Oklahoma Cultural Ambassador. The designation was awarded to Houser in honor of his impact on the arts and the acclaim his work had garnered nationally and internationally. Since 1989, Houser's sculpture As Long As the Waters Flow has towered over the South Plaza of the Oklahoma State Capitol.

This special exhibition commemorates the 100th anniversary of Houser's birth as part of Celebrating Allan Houser: An Oklahoma Perspective, a first-ever, statewide collaboration of Oklahoma museums and cultural institutions, in conjunction with the Oklahoma Museums Association.

Featuring five sculptures on loan from Allan Houser, Inc., Allan Houser at the Capitol: A Legacy in Bronze is made possible through generous support by Friends of the Capitol and The Kerr Foundation. An audio tour accompanying the exhibit has been made possible through a partnership with OETA. The exhibit is managed by the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Allan Houser

Allan Houser
Photo by Betty Price

Born on June 30, 1914, Allan C. Haozous was to become known as Allan Houser, one of the 20th century's most important artists. Houser's parents, Sam and Blossom Haozous were members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe who were held as prisoners of war for 27 years. Houser's father was with the small band of Warm Springs Chiricahuas when their leader, Geronimo, surrendered to the U.S. Army in 1886 in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. In retribution for the Warm Springs Bands' refusal to leave their lands in New Mexico and relocate to a reservation in Arizona, 1200 Chiricahuas were sent by cattle-car train to prisons in Florida.

Houser's father was among the children and women jailed at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, and Allan's mother was born in the prison camp at the Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama, where surviving members of the tribe were sent in 1887. As a final solution, the last of the Chircahuas were sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where they remained captives for 23 years. Freed at last in 1914, a majority of the tribe returned to New Mexico to join with the Mescalero Apaches for whom a reservation had been created. Houser's parents, however, were with a small group of families who chose to stay in Oklahoma and create farms in the Apache and Lawton communities. Houser was born just months after their release, the first child born out of captivity.

Warm Springs Apache Man by Allan Houser
Warm Springs Apache Man by Allan Houser
Photo copyright Chiinde LLC,
photos courtesy of Allan Houser Inc.

Growing up on the farm, Houser labored with crops of cotton and alfalfa and helped support the family growing vegetables and raising livestock and horses. At an early age he became interested in the images he saw in magazines and books. He soon began making his own drawings and carvings. In 1934, a notice for an art school in Santa Fe attracted his attention, and he enrolled in the Painting School at the Santa Fe Indian School. Commonly known as the Dorothy Dunn School after its prominent teacher, Houser became its most famous student and by 1939 his work was exhibited in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. In the same year he received a commission to paint a mural in the Department of Interior building in Washington, and its success led to a second mural commission there in 1940.

Houser married Anna Marie Gallegos in 1939, and together with three young sons they moved to Los Angeles in 1941 where Houser sought employment during the war effort. It was here that Houser would have the opportunity to visit museum exhibitions of European modernists such as Brancusi, Arp, Lipschitz, and Henry Moore, whose work would have a lasting influence on Houser as his own style evolved in the succeeding decades.

Spirit of the Wind by Allan Houser
Spirit of the Wind by Allan Houser
Photo copyright Chiinde LLC,
photos courtesy of Allan Houser Inc.

In 1947, Houser was commissioned by the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, to do a memorial sculpture honoring the Native American students from Haskell who had died in World War II. Completed in 1948, this work entitled "Comrade in Mourning" was his first major marble carving. In 1951 Allan moved to Brigham City, Utah, where he taught art at the Inter-Mountain Indian School for the next eleven years. He continued to paint and produce small wooden sculptures, and in 1954 he was honored by the French government with the Palmes d'Acadamique for his outstanding achievement as a teacher and artist.

In 1962, Houser 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 focusing his own artistic output on three-dimensional work. As Houser taught and created sculpture, he began integrating the aesthetics of the modernists with his narrative ideas, resulting in a new style of Native American sculpture. As Houser began exhibiting his new sculptures during the 1960s, recognition of the style grew. Museums and private collectors sought out examples, and his influence became apparent on hundreds of students and other artists. In 1975, Houser retired from teaching to devote himself full-time to his own work. In the two following decades he would produce close to 1,000 sculptures in stone, wood, and bronze, and emerged as a major figure on an international scale. He had nearly 50 solo exhibitions in museums and galleries in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and he continued working tirelessly until his death on August 22, 1994.