Skip to main content

How Important Is Allan Houser? Six Sculptors Speak

Contemporary Native American sculptors discuss the work of the late Apache modernist for the MIAC exhibition "Footprints".
  • Author:
  • Updated:

The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is currently hosting "Footprints: The Inspiration and Influence of Allan Houser". It's an impressive display of 27 works in stone and bronze by Native sculptors who acknowledge the late Apache modernist, who would have turned 100 this year, as an influence. An additional six sculptures by Houser himself complete the exhibition. (For more information on the MIAC, visit

Each of the artists has provided a statement about their work and, in most cases, their feelings about Houser. Here are statements from six of the artists, with photos of the works they have contributed to the show. 

RELATED:Heavy Legacy: Sculptures Descend on MIAC for Allan Houser Tribute

Robert D. Shorty, Diné

"In 1964, I heard of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My father drove me there from Northern Utah. Next morning we prayed a long prayer leaving me to start my life changing adventure. It was a melting pot of creativity! It was then I took my first sculpture class. Mr. Allan Houser was my teacher from 1964 to1967. It was then my journey in three-dimensional design began … within the time I took my first sculpture class. Prior to that I took classes at the largest off-reservation boarding school at Intermountain Vocational Indian School, in Brigham City, Utah. Mr. Houser was the art teacher, he taught painting. Mr. Houser was amused by my curiosity as I gazed at his painting!!! He encouraged me. All I knew I was having fun! Always unconsciously creating and enjoying myself!"

'Ceremony,' limestone and cedar, by Robert Shorty 2003.

Doug Hyde, Nez Perce/Assiniboine/Chippewa

"I began to work with Allan Houser in 1963. I’d just turned eighteen and was a senior in high school when I met Allan. Like many of the students, my first trip away from home was with dreams of being a painter. If someone asks, 'how were you influenced by Allan,' I would have to say my life changed that first year at IAIA. I was drawn to three-dimensional art. To see a stone from all sides is a great advantage that painters can only try to create. I spend six to seven days a week in my studio for about 8 hours a day. As I learned from Allan’s work ethic to be a good sculptor, you learn every day. This is the lesson that was one of the most valuable lessons Allan taught me. After 50 years of sculpting that lesson still applies."

'People of the Red-Tailed Hawk,' 2012, Cast Bronze, by Doug Hyde.

Estella Loretto, Jemez Pueblo

"At just under the age of sixteen, I came to the Institute of American Indian Arts to study art. I took a sculpting class where I met Allan Houser. I was very touched by his gentle, quiet nature. Little did I know how much he was going to impact and influence the rest of my life. After two years of study at IAIA, I graduated in 1972 and then left to study in Europe, Japan, Mexico, India, and other countries. The sculptural masterpieces I saw on display made a huge impression on me. I believe that creating monumental art is not only empowering for me as a women, but is a way for me to pass on and preserve our Native cultural traditions. I am so grateful for the insights and guidance that Allan Houser so graciously shared and instilled in me."

Scroll to Continue

Read More

'Peaceful Warrior,' Bronze, 2004, by Estella Loretto.

Cliff Fragua, Jemez Pueblo

"My connection with the stone involves spirituality and reverence for the spirit that dwells within. It has been on this earth much longer than man and for this reason the stone becomes the teacher, it is simply what my ancestors believe. I visualize what the stone wants to become and I strive to help it blossom. The stone speaks to me by its color and sound. I look at the characteristics of the stone, and then tap it to listen for a ringing sound. If it rings, then the stone is solid. I interpret the ringing as singing."

'View of the Horizon,' Tennessee marble, 2007, by Cliff Fragua.

Rollie Grandbois, Turtle Mountain Chippewa

"I am a sculptor who works in stone from quarries around the world. I also create bronze castings from my stone originals. Many of my themes incorporate a stylized eagle, which are usually carved with the mouth open, singing a song of freedom or carrying our prayers to the Creator….”

"I met Mr. Allan Houser in the spring of 1980 when I was a student at IAIA. I met him after he had moved on and was no longer at the Institute so I wasn’t one of his direct students. However, I was greatly influenced by him as I often visited the stone sculptors during the Santa Fe Indian Market.

"He was always generous with his knowledge, and we enjoyed talking about the different stones, tools and techniques that we were using and discovering. I was always greatly influenced by his presence as he was a kind, gentle man. He was a wonderful teacher and I was influenced and inspired by him. In fact, he inspired me to teach others about sculpture. I am greatly honored to be included in this historic exhibition honoring Mr. Allan Houser."

'Stories and Dreams Are the Seeds of the Future,' Texas limestone, 1998, by Rolle Grandbois

Oreland Joe, Southern Ute/Navajo

"I find strength, faith, and dignity through my heritage, yet I also find these same things in other cultures - and I derive inspiration and motivation from them as well. In my humble opinion, I'm just an artist who happens to be Native American. I find myself in a unique place of having the blessing of both worlds. And my goal and desire is to have more Native Americans artist to be in this place."

'Owner of the Mountain Songs,' limestone, 2013, by Oreland C. Joe, Sr.