Simply Santa Fe South of Town
May 03, 2011
The Allan C. Houser Compound is located at 26 Haozous Road, 22 miles south of Santa Fe on Highway 14
“Simplicity appeals to me in a land where the simple things are respected and appreciated – simplicity is a way of life.” Allan Houser
Simplicity IS appealing, especially in our increasingly complicated, task-filled lives. Sometimes we become so habituated to our routine and our surroundings that we neglect to simply visit our neighbors. A good illustration of ignoring what’s in your own backyard? The Allan Houser Compound and Sculpture Garden! Fortunately, my neglectful behavior has recently been rectified by a morning spent exploring this stunning piece of land, enriched in every direction by the sculpture of the late Apache artist, Allan C. Houser, whose hours of painstaking work were distilled into deceptively simple forms.
Born as Allan Haozous in 1914, this renowned New Mexican (whose name change came courtesy of the US government) was a member of the Warm Springs band of Chiricahua Apache, originally based in the area near Truth or Consequences, NM. Led by Geronimo himself, the Warm Springs tribe, driven south to Mexico, eventually surrendered to the US Army in 1886 and was speedily transported acroos the country to a prison in Florida as retribution for their recalcitrant refusal to acknowledge superior firepower. The Haozous family itself is descended from the great Mangas Coloradas, a leader of the eastern Chiricahua in the late 1800’s. The Chiricahua were scattered in locations around the southern states; Allan’s father was among those jailed in Florida, and his mother was born in a prison camp in Alabama where surviving members of the tribe were sent in 1887. The remainder of the Chircahua were sent to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where they remained as captives for what have been 23 very long years. Finally freed in 1914, members of the tribe returned west to join with the Mescalero Apache, for whom a reservation had been carved out of public lands in south-central New Mexico. Allan’s parents, however, were among a small group that elected to remain in Oklahoma, and Allan was their first child born out of captivity. From these roots of struggle and privation arose a talent that continues to inspire generations of artists, Native and non-Native alike.
Although he was raised in an agricultural lifestyle, Mr. Houser became interested in imagery at an early age and soon tried his own hand at creative endeavors. His artistic fire was further fueled by a 1934 notice for an art school located on the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School. Thanks to his talent and the hard-working ethic of his forebears, Allan became the most notable graduate of the Dorothy Dunn School, and by 1939, his artwork was being exhibited around the country.
Mr. Houser and his wife, Anna Marie Gallegos, moved to Los Angeles in 1941 with three young sons, where Allan found work as a ship-builder during the busy years of the Second World War. This was a fortuitous decision, since it was here that he honed 3-dimensional skills that would later serve the sculptural forms of his work, and at the same time, encountered museums rich with the work of European modernists that satisfied his desire for a greater knowledge of art and art history.
In 1951, the Houser family moved from L.A. to Utah, where Allan taught art at the Inter-Mountain Indian School for the next eleven years, all the while continuing his own work on canvas and in wood. In 1962, his family heritage came full circle with a move to New Mexico, when he agreed to join the Santa Fe faculty of the newly created Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA), currently the only four-year institution with a fine arts degree dedicated to Native arts. Mr. Houser created a sculpture department from the bottom up and in the process, turned his own artistic focus toward three-dimensional work. By the late 1960’s, exhibitions of his sculpture became a regular occurrence, and both national and international recognition grew along with his output. In 1975, after having influenced several generations of Native artists, Mr. Houser finally had the opportunity to retire and devote himself to his own work, producing close to 1,000 sculptures through the next two decades. His dedicated work ethic never left him, as he continued to create right up until his death at age 80 in 1994.
The compound itself is perched between the villages of Cerrillos and Galisteo on 109 acres of pinon- and juniper-studded land 22 miles south of downtown Santa Fe off Highway 14, the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. The property was originally discovered in 1976 by Allan Houser’s son, Phillip Haozous, who invited his father to settle there and who faithfully and respectfully maintains his father’s work and legacy. Phillip, a quiet, modest and self-effacing gentleman, deserves much credit for planting the seed that grew into this beautiful artistic environment, as well as being responsible for the handsome landscape design. Father and son collaborated on the layout and construction of a group of studios and residences, slowly adding the sculpture gardens, as well as dance grounds and outdoor amphitheaters.
In addition to the ten acres of sculpture gardens and gallery, in 1995 the compound was expanded to include the Allan Houser Foundry, a traditional lost wax process operation, begun to help the Houser family complete Allan’s lifetime work. By casting works of select artists since 2002, the foundry has grown to be a welcome presence in the Santa Fe art world.
Although the Allan Houser Compound is a private facility, owned and maintained by the family and staff, throughout the year, tours can be arranged by appointment only, weather permitting. In addition, the grounds and select buildings are made available for those who want to create a special event that will be both unique and memorable. For more information or to treat yourself to a spot where the spirit of art flows with the breeze through the rocks and trees, call (505) 471-1528; you will leave feeling richer in spirit than when you came.