Allan Houser (1914-1994)

Allan Houser


Allan Houser was born Allan Capron Haozous in 1914.  As a young man, Houser was a Golden Gloves boxing champion.  In 1934 he saw a notice at the Indian Office in Oklahoma inviting individuals to apply for painting classes at the Santa Fe Indian School.  Much to his father’s chagrin, Houser applied and was accepted.

Houser’s first solo exhibition of watercolor paintings was at the Museum of New Mexico. Within two years of graduation, Houser’s work was shown at several exhibitions and he was commissioned to paint murals in the Department of Interior’s Headquarters in Washington D.C.  A Swedish muralist whom he later worked with, Olle Nordmark, encouraged Allan to take up sculpting.  For several years, to make ends meet, Houser worked as a pipefitter’s assistant while painting and sculpting evenings.  Houser’s “break” came in 1948 when he was commissioned by the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, KS, an American Indian boarding school, to create “Comrade in Mourning” as a tribute to graduates who died during World War II.  Following Houser taught painting and sculpting for 11 years at the Inter-Mountain School in Brigham, Utah, before joining the faculty of the newly created Institute of American Indian Arts in  Santa Fe, NM.

Houser was most prolific when he retired from teaching. It was during those years that he dedicated pieces to the United Nations, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Smithsonian Institution.  In 1992, Houser became the first American Indian awarded the National Medal for the Arts.

Allan Houser