March 7, 2014Larry O'Dell
"Born to Freedom: Allan Houser Centennial" Exhibit Planned at Oklahoma History Center
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the internationally acclaimed Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache artist Allan Houser's birth, a first-ever, statewide collaboration of Oklahoma museums and cultural institutions is honoring his memory, works and legacy.
The Oklahoma History Center will present the exhibit "Born to Freedom: Allan Houser Centennial" as one of the institutions participating in the statewide Houser celebration. The exhibit will open on Thursday, March 13, 2014, and run through December 31, 2014. Located in the E. K. & Thelma Gaylord Special Exhibits Gallery, the exhibit will feature sculptures composed of a variety of artistic media, watercolors, sketchbooks, and culturally significant historic treasures. Additionally the award-winning film "Unconquered: Allan Houser and the Legacy of One Apache Family" will be featured in the exhibit.
Allan Houser was a renowned Native American artist who gained prominence with his excellent artistic work throughout the 20th century. As a testament to his work his iconic sculpture "Sacred Rain Arrow" is featured on Oklahoma's license plates. Houser was born on June 30, 1914, on the family farm in Apache, Okla. His parents, Sam and Blossom Haozous, both Apache, were brought to Fort Sill as prisoners of war. Finally after 27 years of incarceration, the Fort Sill Apaches were released from imprisonment. Allan Capron Haozous, later to be known by Houser, was one of the first Apache children born into freedom.
"My father knew more songs I suppose than anyone at that time. When I was growing up, we had people come from Mescalero, San Carlos, and other places, come down just to hear him sing. I think most of my themes for my painting and sculpture derived from the stories that were told to me by my father and the hardships that my father and mother had gone through," said Houser before his death. "I remember at times where he would sing something that some of the older people would remember because I would look across the room and I would see tears come down their cheeks. He was that kind of a person, he could really put a song over as well as a story. I think this is what really made me become an artist!"
It was from that strong tribal foundation set forth by Houser's parents that drove him to find his own creative path, initially as an art student at the Santa Fe Indian Art School, to his dedication as a teacher and mentor in the Indian schools throughout the west, and his stellar career as an internationally acclaimed artist whose work continues to influence generations. Houser's nephew, Jeff Haozous, the chairman of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe, said his uncle was a talented and productive artist who also spent decades teaching art to younger generations of artists. "He's an inspiration based on what he was able to achieve," said Haozous. "As a nephew and tribal member, it's something I'm really proud of to see his art getting such recognition."
The Oklahoma State Arts Council is another institution participating in the statewide Houser celebration, featuring the loan of five of Houser's monumental pieces including "Morning Prayer," "Singing Heart," "Spirit of the Wind," "Warm Springs Apache Man," and "Hunter's Vision." These pieces will be on display through December 2014. Additional Houser exhibits are planned throughout the state in 2014.
"He changed Indian art in America," said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. "He's the pivot point from advocating Indian art as a way to make a living to an expression of their own imagination and observations."
The "Born to Freedom: Allan Houser Centennial Exhibit" is sponsored in part by OPUBCO in conjunction with the Oklahoma Museums Association.