Narrated by Stephen Houser
Greetings, I am Stephen Houser, descendant of Mangas Coloradas, grandson of Sam and Blossom Haozous, son of Allan and Ann Houser, and brother of Lon, Roy, Phillip, and Bob. Today I want to share with you the story of my family—one Apache family—and the unconquered spirit that has been, and always will be, expressed through our art and is shown today in this exhibit Unconquered: Allan Houser and the Legacy of One Apache Family.
The art of Allan Houser and his sons reflect the history of the Fort Sill Apache, the last Native people removed to the Indian Territory in the nineteenth century. The legacy of great leaders, such as Geronimo, can be seen in their expressions of spirituality, loyalty, and defiance. The problem solving and adaptability of elders, such as Sam and Blossom Haozous, can be seen in their expressions of courage, survival, and the never-ending search for identity. What comes through is the strength of family, a sense of place, and a love of beauty.
A large Elder’s Talking Stick, created by my brother Bob Haozous. In this work, and in the smaller Talking Sticks, Bob is using his art to make the point that we, as Apaches, must reconnect with our traditions through the power of people, the power of places, and the power of seeking answers. Each talking stick is both a connecting point to a deeper understanding and a question. By asking questions and building bridges of understanding through talking sticks, we seek answers that make us Apache. Bob says he does not know the answers, but he knows we must ask the questions.
A more literal connection with the history of the Apache is my father’s bronze work, Smoke Signals, a piece he cast in 1993. Unlike much of the abstract and stylized art he created in the 1990s, this piece represents a more traditional, narrative approach to cultural expression. He created it specifically for the Prix de West competition at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Allan was the first American Indian artist invited to the show, which for years had featured works in the tradition of cowboy artists such as Charles Russell and Frederick Remington. With Smoke Signals, Allan won the purchase prize that year.
Notice the coloring of the bronze and the realistic representation of fire. David Rettig, curator of corporate collections at the Allan Houser Archives, tells the story that a vision-impaired woman was touring the galleries, using her sense of touch she experienced each sculpture. When she got to Smoke Signals and viewed the art with her hands, a big smile spread across her face as she turned around and said, “Now, I know what fire looks like.”
Apache Clowns II
Humor is an essential part of Apache culture. Here, my brother, Phillip Mangas Haozous, is expressing the learning process in a humorous way in a piece he calls Apache Clowns II. A few years ago, when he was attending the Apache Gathering at the tribal complex in southwestern Oklahoma, Phillip was watching a young Apache, about seven or eight years old, obviously trying to learn the dance. As he followed the older dancers around the fire, the singers acknowledged the dancers with a high pitched “Whoo...oo...oo.” The boy stopped and looked backward, with a sense of anxiety. He went around the fire again, and when the singers again pierced the night air, he stopped, dropped his arms, and seemed on the verge of running away. Phillip, who often felt out of place in school and wanted to run away, smiles every time he thinks of the young man's moment of panic. Circle the piece. Try to imagine the eyes of the gathered crowd on the young man as he strives to be accepted...to belong.
Sacred Rain Arrow
Like my brothers, my father expressed himself in a variety of materials. Allan was a prolific sketch artist, a watercolorist, a muralist, and a sculptor who worked in plaster, wood, clay, limestone, marble, steel, sheet metal, and bronze. This amazing piece, Sacred Rain Arrow, was carved from one piece of ebony wood. He created it at his studio in the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, and entered it in a contest at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa in 1968. He won the grand prize. This was the first time that my father used the Sacred Rain Arrow theme in his art. Later, he expanded the narrative story into a full-bodied Apache shooting an arrow into the air, which he cast in bronze.
The story of the Rain Arrow, likely passed down from my grandfather to my father, places this magnificent piece into historical context. A long time ago, the Apache suffered during a drought. Game was scarce and native plants shriveled. The medicine men and elders gathered to do something about the problem. They chose a young man, not necessarily the biggest or the strongest, but the man with the purest heart. They selected a special arrow, conducted a ceremony, and blessed the arrow with a prayer. The young man took the arrow and climbed the highest peak on the horizon. There, surrounded by the darkness of night, he shot the arrow into the heavens with his prayer for rain to sustain his people—The Apache—survived. Recently, the State of Oklahoma adopted that image for the state’s automobile license plates.
In 2005 my brother Bob wrote “Indian Speak” for an exhibit of his work at the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe. Like his sculptural art, this poem is a conversation about what it means to be an American Indian. To Bob, that conversation is both backward and forward in time, with special meaning for the present and future. Read the poem...reflect on how he is challenging current definitions and identifications of being an “Indian”....listen to his search for an honest portrayal of the contemporary human condition set against traditional cultural knowledge. I think you will hear the voice of a man who is asking questions and pushing aside the stereotypes and preconceptions that limit the self-awareness of indigenous people.
Like the lives of the Fort Sill Apache in the twentieth century, my father’s art continued to change and evolve throughout his life. In the 1960s he captured the beauty and grace of a reclining woman in a number of sketches and sculptural pieces. At first, feminine beauty was represented with delicate detail in the body, clothing, and hair. In subsequent years, as Allan became interested in the art of modernistic sculptors such as Henry Moore and Jon Arp, his reclining women became more simplified and even abstract. In Dawn, Allan shares with us his impression of a reclining woman, resting on her elbow and gazing into the distance. The details are missing, but the grace and shape remain...a simple reflection on the feminine form.
As Allan’s art explored new expressions of form and texture, he returned time and again to working in plaster. With plaster, he had the options that were impossible with marble, stone, or wood. It was easy to carve, easy to add more material, and easy to finish in a variety of textures. In Nature’s Beauty my father created this original plaster that was used to make a mold for a bronze edition in 1990. As you can see, it is a simple form with a highly polished finish. For many American Indian artists in the twentieth century, the image of a buffalo was regarded as a sacred symbol of lost freedom and self subsistence. To Allan Houser, who grew up not far from the buffalo herd at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, it was a symbol of motion and strength.
Nature’s Beauty (both wood and bronze)
My father almost always started a sculptural piece with a drawing. With deft strokes on paper, he experimented with form, motion, scale, and detail as his mind’s eye absorbed the possibilities he could pursue. This work, Amorphous Movement, is an example of how a material could bring forward the abstracted forms he recorded in his sketches and drawings. In 1992, while he was working on a number of large pieces that were monumental in scope, he took a simple piece of pine and started carving. His only guides were his imagination and the grain of the wood. The result was an abstract form enhanced by grain patterns that seem to explode. When Allan created a bronze version from a mold, he did not try to replicate those patterns, but instead added a wonderful multi-colored patina with a beauty all its own.
Apache Dancers (male and female)
In 1940 Allan was studying with the Norwegian muralist Ollie Nordmark in a special program for gifted artists at the Fort Sill Indian School. When Nordmark noticed that Allan’s paintings had a sculptural quality, he encouraged the young man to try sculpting three-dimensional objects. These two little figures were the result of that experiment. We think that they were sold through the Museum of New Mexico for fifteen dollars.
Nine years after carving these Apache Dancers, Allan was asked by officials at Haskell Indian School if he had ever done a sculpture. They were looking for someone to sculpt a costly block of Carrara marble into a memorial for Indian soldiers killed in action during World War II. Allan, who had already earned a reputation for his painting, said yes, he had done sculptures. The self-confident artist was referring to these two little figures.
Allan Houser’s watercolors
In the 1950s, my father was hired as an art teacher at the Intermountain Indian School in Utah, a BIA boarding school with exclusively Navajo students. Most of his painting up to that time had been done with tempera paint, an opaque pigment that dried quickly and was easy to control on a dry surface. He wanted to learn to work with watercolor, which was much more delicate and difficult to use, so he enrolled in a watercolor class at Utah State University. He learned quickly. After three weeks the instructor pulled Allan aside and told him he should not be taking classes from him, rather he should be Allan’s student.
Portrait and bust of Allan Houser
In 2002 the Salt Lake Winter Olympics Planning Committee selected my father as the featured artist of the games. We eventually installed several works of his art in the city, including the monumental bronze, Unconquered, that now stands in front of the Oklahoma History Center. When the organizers told us that we could not produce brochures or interpretive panels about my father, we decided that there needed to be images of him among the artwork.
My brother, Phillip, created a life-sized sculpture of Allan, from which this portrait bust was also cast. The life-sized portrayal gave Allan’s personal presence to his exhibition in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the most extensive in scale ever mounted.
My brother, Bob, produced this pen-and-ink drawing of our father for our family’s celebration of the Olympic event, and it has been reproduced in numerous forms.
My father’s painting The Apache Kid has special meaning to our family. The subject of the painting was a real man, an Apache who was accused of a crime, convicted, and sentenced to jail. On the way to the jail, he escaped into the mountains. In the Anglo press, he was accused of every unsolved crime committed in the territory, usually in racist terms. Allan’s father, Sam Haozous, told stories about the Apache Kid, giving him special powers with exceptional vision.
My father, who also owned a photograph of the Apache Kid, did this painting in 1940, the same year he carved the little wooden Apache Dancers. Unlike his previous paintings done in the flat, pictographic style, this painting moved the subject into the close foreground and used balanced perspective to finish the composition. I like to think that the painting is somewhat autobiographical. Allan placed his signature in the very spot where the photograph had the name of the Apache Kid. When Allan played the guitar and sang on a Santa Fe radio station about the same time, he used the stage name, the Apache Kid. And my father never sold this painting. Wherever he lived, he kept it hanging near his favorite chair.
Athanacious Embrace marks a turning point in the creative expression of my brother, Phillip. Growing up as a kid in Oklahoma and Utah, he was a star athlete, but a poor student who felt like he did not fit in. In some ways, he withdrew into himself. It was not until he learned to play guitar while he was in the Air Force that his musical abilities surfaced. When he returned to our home in Santa Fe, he started playing the flute.
By 1975 Phillip was carving flutes and making silver jewelry. He joined our brother, Bob, in showing his work at Indian market, but most of his creative energy went into designing and building the Allan Houser compound south of Santa Fe, where people still go to see our family’s artwork in a desert setting. At one point during this time period, Phillip helped our father by rough cutting and finishing a few stone sculptures. Although Allan told him he had the ability to sculpt, Phillip kept his focus on the compound and the business.
In 1999, five years after our father’s death, Phillip decided to heed Allan’s advice and return to his artwork. He took a piece of clay and started working on it at his kitchen table. Tapping into his inner emotions, he created two figures, one male and one female, in an embrace. Phillip wanted to capture the passion and power of two people in love. The name was suggested by a Benedictine Monk who saw the piece and sensed the powerful emotion in the embrace. His name was Athanacious, which in Greek means eternal.
Encouraged by his early work, Phillip continued to explore abstract forms and his control of light, shadow, lines, and texture. In Guardian Spirit, the image you see depends on the angle of your view and the play of light on the undulating surfaces. Regardless of your perspective, my brother created a beautiful figure full of energy and power.
Phillip often takes a theme and lets it evolve in stages. Here, in Sisters II, the second version of one concept, he emphasized the motion, dignity, and sensuality of women. When he created Sisters III, a larger, monumental sized version that stood more than six feet tall, he removed some of the negative space and exaggerated the female forms to exploit the play of light, shadow, and lines. Like all of Phillip’s work, this piece was cast at the Allan Houser foundry southeast of Santa Fe.
My brother Phillip has always felt close to the land, whether it was the family farm in Oklahoma or the desert near Santa Fe. You can see that special relationship in the sculpture gardens that Phillip designed to show our father’s art.
A few years ago, Phillip purchased a meteorite that had entered the atmosphere and fallen in Argentina. At first he was intrigued by the odd shape, the texture, and the color. Then he began to see a form in the rock, a woman holding a fish. He started carving, a little at a time until the figure started taking shape. Then he stopped. He had created a mysterious piece of art that is half meteorite, half woman with a fish.
A collector asked if Phillip could recreate the look in a slightly larger figure. Phillip agreed to try. This piece, molded from clay and cast in bronze, is the result of that effort. In recognition of its origins, Phillip called it Celestial Maiden.
We have another brother, Roy, who is one year older than Phillip. Free Spirit is Phillip’s expression of love and admiration for him. When they were young and free to roam over our grandparents’ farm in Oklahoma, Roy was the leader of the wild bunch. He fired their imaginations. He led their expeditions. He even saved Phillip’s life one day when they were swimming in the creek winding through the farm. When the family lived in Utah, Roy was always restless, roaming the mountains, cutting school, and running away from home to be on his own. To Phillip, Roy is like an Apache warrior who finds himself with nobody to fight. He is left to wander, a free spirit.
Apache Love Song
Flutes have always been a part of our family life. My grandfather played. My father played. And Phillip plays beautifully. In Apache culture, the flute was an instrument for courting. A young man would play for a young maiden, expressing his emotions and his affection through the songs he played, the way he held the flute, and the way he moved. Here, in Apache Love Song, Phillip captures that moment when the young woman swoons and responds to the musical caresses.
Phillip’s love of the land and its creatures can be seen in AVE-HOO. It is not an exact replica of an owl. Rather, it is Phillip’s emotional image of an owl, full of personality, curious, and endowed with special qualities. When he was a young boy growing up on our grandfather’s farm in Oklahoma, Phillip would listen to owls hooting at night. Occasionally, he was lucky enough to see one early in the morning or as the sun was setting in the western sky. For my brother, the owl is a wise, self reliant creature that shares this earth with all of us.
A major theme throughout Bob’s work is the art of problem-solving. Among Apaches, that problem-solving ability empowered them to cope with natural disasters, migration, enemies, and internal social conflict. In Sky Shield, my brother is suggesting that contemporary man separates himself from the honest process of problem-solving by placing a shield before him. It might be chest-thumping bravado, trite political slogans, or rote religious dogma. If we are to face the challenges of the modern world, if we are to be true to ourselves and the world around us, Bob believes that we must lower our shields and take responsibility for our actions.
Warrior of the Plains
For my brother, Bob, life in the western world is full of contradictions. Foremost in his mind is society’s failed balancing act between responsibility and convenience. To Bob, we tolerate horrible things not to sacrifice convenience. This visually appealing wood carving with a painted surface, created in 1983, speaks to that contradiction. It was convenient and profitable to kill the buffalo that seemed so plentiful, yet we destroyed the herds in less than thirty years. It was convenient to create a car that was the people’s car, a car that would run forever, yet we were destroying the environment, one gallon at a time.
Water Spirit Bird
This graceful bronze, called Water Spirit Bird, is my father’s expression of spiritual transcendence. To Allan, understanding the ancient ways meant that a person shared a spiritual connection with all creation... past, present, and future.
The water bird is an iconographic symbol of the Native American Church, which fuses Native beliefs and Christian theology. By the early part of the twentieth century, the Native American Church had spread to the majority of Oklahoma tribes providing spiritual comfort and guidance. Although Allan was raised in the Apache Reformed Church he respected the values and teachings of the Native American Church. When Allan sought to capture the power of spirituality in a work of art, he naturally chose the water spirit bird.
By 1992, when my father created this intriguing image of feminine form, he was experimenting with variations on the classical story of water bearers. On the one hand, he was inspired by the literal importance of water and food preparation among the Apache. On the other, he was influenced by the range of expression he was absorbing from the world community of artists. In We’re Here, Allan used a minimalist approach with strong negative space and curved lines to create a comforting image of two women taking care of their families.
My father was raised in a community that revered singing and dancing. Both were spiritual. Both were essential to a sense of community and personal identity. When Allan was growing up in southwestern Oklahoma in the 1920s, there was a constant sharing of music and dancing among the tribes. Contributing to that culture of sharing were urbanization and the Indian School experience, both of which brought together young Indians from across the country. Away from their homes, told that being Indian was bad, those young people often bonded with each other and shared their cultural heritage. One result was the powwow.
As Allan knew, powwows revolved around the drum. There might be speeches or giveaways, but the focus always came back to the drum, the singers, and the dancers. In this small bronze, Allan expresses the importance of the singers and their place in the cultural life of Indian people.
Among Indian people, the most revered individuals were known for their spiritual powers. With Lament, my father expresses the power of spiritual vision in this prayer for a successful hunt.
In the 1970s my father experimented with a series of sculptures that were almost skeletal. It was as if he was trying to get back to the essential form of his subjects, embellished only with an emotional sense of movement and grace. War Pony is a dynamic expression of the power and speed of a horse. Allan grew up around horses that were used for both work and transportation. He also understood the importance of horses in Indian culture, where speed and mobility often meant the difference between eating and going hungry, victory or defeat. From the flared nostrils to the wind-swept lines of the mane and bridle, this work captures the spirit of strength and speed.
Ready for Battle
When Allan left home in Oklahoma to attend art school in Santa Fe, he fell under the influence of Dorothy Dunn, who shared the Department of Interior’s conviction that education, even art education, should help young Indian people make a living. It was a vocational approach. Despite its limitations on creative expression, Dunn’s methodology encouraged a generation of Indian artists to look back into their own tribal history for their subjects. Even though Allan rebelled against the creative straitjacket of the vocational approach, he continued to look back into his own families’ history for inspiration.
Ready for Battle is one of those shared memories that Allan captured in bronze. The Apache were amazing warriors. Like many nomadic people who learned to survive in marginal, hostile environments, they were hardened both physically and temperamentally. When attacked, they fought back, protecting their families first and themselves second. Once they acquired horses, the Apache became some of the best light cavalry in the world. Even in 1886, surrounded by more than 5,000 United States and Mexican soldiers, Geronimo’s band of seventeen warriors and nineteen women and children was never defeated. Facing starvation, Geronimo surrendered rather than watch his family die. In this bronze, my father captured that spirit of the warrior.
My brother Bob has always been a bit of an antagonist, an inclination further shaped by the soul searching culture of the 1950s and ’60s. His first approach to any subject is to ask questions...to poke holes through the contradictions he sees around him. Some people see that as confrontational. Others see it as anger. He would respond that the anger comes from within the viewer and not from him. Bob would say he is simply stripping away the preconceptions of the modern world and laying it bare for the interpretation of others.
In Portable Apaches Bob is suggesting that many people believe cultural identity can be bought. To understand the Apache, buy a girl’s puberty dress, purchase a cradle board, or read a book. To be an Apache, make a bow by reading a book, construct a drumstick using a microwave oven, or learn to speak the native language by taking a class. Through the man-like toys of the Portable Apaches, my brother is challenging society and asking people to resist the comfortable, easy approach of consumerism in favor of the difficult and sometimes unsettling process of dialogue.
Geronimo with Bullets
When my brothers Phillip and Bob were young, they spent several years living with our grandparents on their farm in Oklahoma. They heard stories about the free Apaches, the years of flight and resistance, the surrender and shipment to prisoner of war camps. They heard stories about the Indian boarding schools where kids had their hair cut and were punished for speaking their native language. In his painting Geronimo with Bullets, Bob is making a statement that the western world has been trying to destroy indigenous culture for hundreds of years. At the same time, modern society has been destroying the earth, one bullet hole at a time.
Mobility and sense of place are seemingly incompatible parts of Apache culture. The pre-reservation Apache were always on the move, tracking migratory game, searching for wild plants, or looking for the next water hole. Twentieth-century Apache have moved just as easily, migrating from rural areas to cities and from job to job. At the same time, there have been places with special meaning for all generations of Apache. For my father, one such place was Warm Springs, New Mexico, where his father was born. Just as significant was the family home near Apache, Oklahoma, where my grandparents Sam and Blossom raised their family, planted their crops, and passed on their knowledge of the old ways.
With Spirit House, my father has expressed this dual nature of mobility and sense of place through an abstract impression of a tipi. The work of art consists of two independent sheets of bronze, cut and bent into free-flowing forms that seem to take flight. When placed side by side, with interlocking lines, they create one form: the form of a place to live.
Family is a recurring theme in my father’s art. Sometimes the figures are sisters. Sometimes they are a mother and child or two warriors gazing into the morning mist. In this bronze, The Future, Allan depicts the central family unit, a mother, a father, and a child. Animating the family is a sense of motion created by their forward-leaning posture and the wind-swept lines of their hair and garments. This small bronze was later cast in a larger version, almost fourteen feet tall, commissioned for a building in the center of Albuquerque in the Apache homeland of New Mexico.
Spirit of the Wind
This magnificent bronze piece represents the genius of my father, Allan Houser. First, it reflects a shared memory of life on the Southern Plains. As anyone who grows up in Oklahoma can tell you, wind is a part of life, especially in the spring and fall. Allan was familiar with the forces of wind, ranging from the gentle breeze that brought comfort during a hot Oklahoma night to the raging fury of a tornado ripping through the landscape.
Second, Spirit of the Wind reflects Allan’s vision. Here, he gives form to the formless...wind. You do not see the wind. Yet, when you look at this piece of art, you feel the force of wind in the slender whiplash curves that come to sharp points. You feel the sense of movement in the interlocking folds of material.
Finally, this sculpture represents the technical creativity that always fascinated my father. Throughout his life, he could see variations on a theme, whether it was a home, a family, a warrior, or the wind. The challenge was turning the vision into reality. In this case, Allan could not use the traditional cast bronze process. Instead, he turned to an inspired craftsman, Ryon Rich, a metalsmith and a fabricator. To make this piece, my father started with patterns that Ryon used to mark four by eight sheets of thin bronze plate. Ryon cut the pieces with a plasma torch, bent and hammered them into the curved shapes according to Allan’s design, and welded them together for a seamless work of art. Over time, Allan and Ryon created more than twenty editions of art using this method.
Like any great artist, my father’s work reflected both the experiences of his own life and the influences of other artists, past and present. Throughout history, artists have been fascinated with the images of mother and child. Allan was no exception. He felt the bond between a mother and her child, a love that he had experienced with his own mother, Blossom Haozous. He had witnessed the bonding between his wife, Anna Marie Houser, and their sons. In Singing Heart, my father captured the protective love that a mother feels for her child. If there is one theme that unifies Allan’s lifetime of work, from beginning to end, it is the image of maternal love.
Meeting on the Trail
Another recurring theme of Allan’s work is the relationship between women. As a young boy, he observed the close bond between his mother and her sister, Amy. At church on Sunday, he had a chance to see the social network among women who spent most of their waking hours on isolated farms. Around the campfire and in the kitchen, he glimpsed the teamwork of women working together to feed the family. Here, in Meeting on the Trail, my father pays tribute to that special relationship between women.
This impressive piece of art is a good example of Allan’s blending of the narrative form and the modern ascetics of the artists he admired, such as Henry Moore, Constantine Brancusi, or Barbara Hepworth. You know you are looking at two women who have met on the trail, but the forms have been simplified. You do not see every fold in the fabric. You do not see the wrinkles in the skin. You do not even see arms or legs. Other than the faces and faint traces of flowing hair, all you see of the two women is form. This is a beautiful example of blending the narrative and the modern.
During his lifetime, my father created more than forty pieces of art that depicted a man’s personal relationship with God. His mother, Blossom, was a devoutly religious woman who had been raised a Christian in the Apache Reformed Church. In Morning Prayer, Allan uses his narrative skills to present a man who is deep in thought as he faces the rising sun. In his hand is a drumstick, beating a slow rhythm on the drum as he sings his morning prayers. Through the art of my father, we sense that this man knows his place in the universe.
Great Spirit Buffalo
My brother, Phillip, grew up between two worlds. He lived for several years with our grandparents, Sam and Blossom, on their Oklahoma farm. At night Sam would tell stories about the old days, the days of the free Apache, and the exploits of Mangas Coloradas, his grandfather, and Geronimo. Phillip learned about Sam’s remarkable skills of adaptation and problem solving, his athletic prowess, and his reputation for good medicine. For Phillip, it was good to be Apache. At the same time, my brother was learning to live in the western world of schools, military service, and jobs. Ironically, one of the jobs Phillip took in these early years was as an actor playing an Apache in a Wild West Show in Colorado. By the time he was in his late twenties, Phillip returned to Santa Fe to be near our father and mother.
During his evenings in 1975, after working days with our father, Phillip started carving a piece of alabaster. His intent was to make an eagle. One night while he was chopping on the stone with a chisel, the block splits. Our brother Bob laughed and said that happens to all sculptors. Wait a while, he added, and a solution to the problem would come to him. That solution for Phillip was to carve a dove, not a complete dove, but half a dove with the other half of the stone in its uncut form created by the uneven contour from the break. The piece sold quickly to a collector from Denver.
Thirty years later, Phillip wanted to carve a buffalo, and he wanted to recreate the impression of a figure with one side representational and the other side more abstract with little detail. The Great Spirit Buffalo II was the result. On one side, you see Phillip’s vision of a buffalo, complete with features and texture drawn from his imagination. On the other, you get only the outline of a buffalo with a surface of bold cuts resembling a flaked arrowhead or spear point. Here, there are no details, only impressions. Like our father and brother, Phillip has learned that all of us see the world in different ways, ways that are influenced by the experiences of our lives.
The Spirit of Machu Picchu
In The Spirit of Machu Picchu, other than his love of beauty, I see two sources of Phillip’s inspiration. First is his work in the construction industry. He has worked with wood, steel, and stone, learning about their tensile strength, their load-bearing qualities, and the art of putting the pieces together to create a structure that is both attractive and functional. The other influence is the fault line that runs through the history of the Apache over the past hundred and twenty years. Despite the tectonic pressures on their traditional ways of life, the Apache are still around, still functional, still trying to maintain a balance.
In 1998, Phillip took a trip to South America where he visited the ancient Inca temple complex of Machu Picchu. With a construction worker’s eye, he was fascinated by the cut stone that was dry-laid without mortar. With an artist’s eye, he was captivated by the interplay of light, shadow, and form. During the tour, the guide pointed to a place in a heavy wall where an earthquake had split the foundation stone. Above the split, the stones had separated into a four-inch gap with parallel lines. Still, the stones supported those above. The guide explained that the original builders had anticipated earthquakes and had laid the stone in ways that would give but not break.
For months Phillip thought about that gap and the strength of the master plan. He expressed his emotional connection through this abstract bronze sculpture of two young Apache girls, separated by a gap but united by the parallel lines of their Apache heritage.
My brother Bob has long been fascinated by the concept of home, or in the Apache way, a lodge. To Bob, the lodge is a place on this earth where we go to learn, to understand, and to teach. It is where we come together and accept our responsibilities. This fabricated steel lodge, created in 2004, is located next to the suggestion of the Wichita Mountains, near the place on the surrounding scaled landscape where Sam and Blossom built their home. In their wood-frame house, a modern version of a lodge, Bob heard the stories of Sam and learned the values of the traditional Apache.
In 2005 the Institute of American Indian Arts Museum assembled a major exhibition on the art of my brother, Bob Haozous. Appropriately, they called it Indigenous Dialogue. To emphasize his concept of the lodge as a place of learning, understanding, and teaching, museum officials asked Bob if he would create a large version for their exhibit. The result was this thirty-five foot tall soaring minimalist creation of four steel arcs that create a space, without defining the space. In effect, Bob was asking each visitor to define their own space for learning, for healing, for coming together to solve problems of contemporary life.
During the exhibit, museum officials noticed that people started gathering inside the lodge. They talked. They sang. They danced. It was as if the lodge poles had inspired them to create their own space, shielded from the outside world, where they could come together and celebrate. As Bob had intended, the lodge embraced people. It brought them in.
Much of Bob’s art deals with the contradictions of convenience and responsibility. This monumental piece, Extinct, is a statement about the modern world’s ability to destroy the very resources in the long run that make life so comfortable in the short run. The buffalo, an accessible and affordable resource in the nineteenth century, was wiped out because it was convenient. In the twenty-first century, it is the earth itself that is being destroyed, one convenient step after another.
Many people look at Bob’s art and think he is angry. Some turn the art on themselves and assume he is condemning them. Actually, my brother is simply trying to generate dialogue for each person viewing the art. In some of his work, he directs the messages to society in general. In others, he is talking to individuals. In all of his work, he is speaking to indigenous people who are searching for their own identity.
Here, in Apache Holocaust, Bob uses images like a battering ram. The base, constructed of coarse metal, is covered with the names of Chiricahua Apaches, some dead, some alive. Inside the base is an Apache spirit, displayed on its back, visible only through a porthole. Above the base are seven jail windows that enclose wooden skulls of seven elders and seven children. For Bob, it is critical that we reconnect with the beauty of nature, whether it is a prayer before cutting a tree or placing the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the individual. To him, it is about taking responsibility.
In 1999, when officials of the Oklahoma Historical Society were looking for a monumental piece of art for the entrance to the History Center, they wanted something that was beautiful, something that reflected the history of the state. Those officials narrowed their search to this monumental bronze, Unconquered. Thanks to the vision and generosity of the Inasmuch Foundation, this world-famous sculpture greets every visitor on their journey into our shared history.
Unconquered is just as important to our family. Not only was it the last monumental sculpture created by my father before his death in 1994, but it also reflects the fusion of Allan’s creative talent and the cultural legacy of the Apache.
With his creative powers undiminished by time, Allan put every ounce of his spirit into these two men, determined to stand their ground, carefully looking along the horizon for threats to their way of life. When I look at these two men, I see my father, unconquered, willing to be a cultural warrior until the very end.