The Crocker Museum is one of the longest operating museums in the Western part of the country situated in Sacramento, California. It has vast collections of Californian art dating from the Gold Rush era to the current times. On top of that, the museum often hosts various exhibits. Currently, the museum hosts Alan Houser’s exhibition on the third floor, and it was by far one of the most interesting events in the museum on the day of the visit. Alan Houser remains one of the most famous and acclaimed Native American painters and Modernist sculptors within the 20th century. He left behind a remarkable legacy, which keeps astonishing generations onwards. Thanks to his cultural heritage, his works possess a unique flavor and aesthetic to them, clearly singling them out from the works of other artists of the Modernist era.
The first artwork, which caught my attention, was the wonderful “Abstract Mother and Child.” created in 1983 from bronze. It is remarkable how in so phew strokes the human silhouettes are recognizable. Not only one can clearly see humans in there, but also the feeling of tenderness and the brightest emotion of all – love. Curvilinear lines, a teardrop-shaped gap – these elements contribute well to the biomorphic and geometric shapes, ensuring that the connection between a mother and her child is delivered to the viewer vividly. The artist mentioned that he was trying to pursue creativity by sketching people doing different things as well as playing with the forms and trying to change them beyond the point of recognizable (Lipson). Clearly, this principle in the case of this beautiful duo of sculptures worked.
Another notable work was “New Life,” which continued the topic of the mother-child connection as well as its sacred nature. In this case, the facial features are less abstract, and it is immediately possible to establish that the face belongs to the Indian woman. Again, the artist manages to illustrate her background by very few details such as the shape of the eyes and the haircut style. The body was deliberately made abstract so that the viewers would concentrate on the faces instead. As far as the child is concerned, only the head is visible hidden within the folds of the mother’s clothes and her arms. The entire sculpture made of Gray Italian marble was shaped like an egg, which meant to symbolize spring, fertility, and the ongoing cycles of life. Other interpretations for the egg symbol are wealth, luck, and purity while in Christian religion, the egg often implied the resurrection of Christ (Houser).
“Haven” made of African wonder stone closes the triptych depicting the relationship between mother and child. Very similar to the previous sculpture, this one is slightly different as it shows the slightly more grown up child, position below the mother’s chin. It was often stated that this work was the reflection of his father’ story, who hid from Mexican soldiers with his mother. Sam, in his turn, was the grandnephew of the legendary leader and warrior Geronimo, who participated in the Apache-Mexico wars. By putting the child’s head directly below the mother, the artist stresses the importance of mother’s protection and her endless potential of shielding the child of all possible calamities.
The exhibition featured many more great artworks such as Apache Matron, Hunter’s Prayer, and The Young Potter, all of which to various extents reflected Houser’s culture and heritage. He was the artist who could say a lot in very laconic forms. He always seemed to create his sculptures based on the principle “less is more.” Undeniably, it worked time and time again, so that now these sculptures are successfully standing the test of time while interest towards them does not diminish.
- Houser, Allan. Haven. Crocker Art Museum plaque, 2016. Print.
- Houser, Allan. New Life. Crocker Art Museum plaque, 2016. Print.
- Lipson, Loren G. Abstract Mother and Child. Crocker Art Museum, 2016. Print.