Diverse Views

Wolf by Bob Haozous, sculpture, southwest art.
Wolf by Bob Haozous

By Donald J. Hagerty

This article is an excerpt from Leading the West—100 Contemporary Painters and Sculptors [1997 Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, AZ] by Donald J. Hagerty, a 224-page book illustrated with 175 color reproductions; foreword by Susan Hallsten McGarry. To order a copy call 800.358.6327.

The sculpture of John D. Free [b1929] reflects the simple, uncluttered lifestyle of western ranch life. His love and respect for cattle, horses, and cowboys is embedded in his bronzes. Free was born in Pawhuska, OK, and still lives there. He learned cowboy skills on his grandfather’s ranch as he rode through the brushy country of the Osage Hills to mend fences and check on cattle.

Free’s early exposure to art came from Winchester calendars and the covers of pulp western magazines. After college and a hitch in the U.S. Army, he settled on his father-in-law’s ranch near Pawhuska. He painted and sculpted on the side until he finally decided to pursue a full-time art career.

In 1971, Free participated in his first one-man show at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City, OK, which was followed by another exhibit in 1984 at the Woolaroc Museum, Bartlesville, OK. Elected to the Cowboy Artists of America in 1972, Free often participates in their annual events. Among his awards is a silver medal from the National Academy of Western Art. He has completed numerous commissions, including a life-size bronze of a mare and colt in 1995 for the American Royal Association in Kansas City, MO.

Rough Edges by John D. Free, sculpture, southwest art.
Rough Edges by John D. Free

“My subject matter is simple, and I try to convey it the very best I can,” Free says. Whether portraying cattle or a cowboy astride a frenzied horse, as in Rough Edges, his lean, elemental sculptures reflect a dedication to his craft and a love for the ways of the West.

In contrast, Bob Haozous [b1943] creates sculpture that provokes the viewer to contemplate its meaning. Considered a primary exponent of contemporary sculpture in the Native American art movement, Haozous sculpts images marked by exaggeration. Born in Los Angeles, CA, the son of acclaimed Apache sculptor Allan Houser, Haozous is a Warm Springs Chiracahua Apache who retained the traditional spelling of his family name. He grew up in northern Utah, where his father taught art. After service in the U.S. Navy, he attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA, graduating in 1971.

Since the 1970s, Haozous has participated in more than 100 solo and group exhibitions in the United States, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Germany, and Switzerland. His steel sculptures are in the collections of the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, the City of Tulsa, OK, and the Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ.

Haozous’ sculptures express his concerns about environmental destruction and the inhumanity of man. Thus, while Wolf is reminiscent of the coyote mania that has permeated southwestern folklore, Haozous intends deeper meaning: The wolf will survive despite efforts to eradicate it. “I think common images say things best,” Haozous says. “If I get too esoteric, people miss the point.”

No Turning Back by Veryl Goodnight, sculpture, southwest art.
No Turning Back by Veryl Goodnight

Veryl Goodnight [b1947] has a strong interest in the West that has prompted her to fly over historic trails with her husband, a retired commercial airline pilot. One trail they have traced is the Goodnight-Loving Trail, named for her great-great-great-uncle, the famous Texas cowman Charles Goodnight.

Goodnight’s sculpture reflects the pre-1900 era of the American West—stalwart pioneer women and their animal companions, in particular. She began sculpting in 1982, prompted by an interest in horses and anatomy.

Born in Denver, CO, Goodnight now works in a 2,000-square-foot studio at her home north of Santa Fe, NM. There she did the preliminary work for her largest sculpture to date, a monumental seven-ton image of five horses sailing over the broken remnants of the Berlin Wall. Titled The Day the Wall Came Down, the sculpture is installed at the George Bush Presidential Library Center at Texas A&M University in College Station.

Goodnight is known for her portrayal of the viewpoints of western pioneer women. Her bronze No Turning Back pays homage to the pioneer women who ventured westward. She feels a deep kinship with the women who lived in the West more than a century ago. “I like being a woman, and I like the woman’s point of view,” she says. “Besides, I see a widespread interest in the softer side of the West. Many people have recently discovered that the prairies and mountains were not solely a man’s domain.”

Transformation by Tony Angell sculpture, southwest art.
Transformation by Tony Angell

Tony Angell [b1940] creates stone and bronze sculpture as well as drawings and paintings of the natural world surrounding his home in Seattle, WA, and his studio located on one of the San Juan Islands. Salmon run up the creek near the studio, while birds and animals flit and prowl around the perimeter of both places.

Years of dedication to his craft have given Angell a feel for the shape and texture of alabaster, marble, and steatite. He works on several sculptures at once. Angell believes his art articulates the balance and integrity in nature and follows Thoreau’s advice: “simplify, simplify.”

The subjects of Angell’s sculptures include mammals and fish, but it is birds that attract him most: murrelets, tundra swans, loons, owls, hawks, and especially ravens. To Angell, the voice of the raven is “more an exclamation than a song. In wild places, a raven is a shy and elusive ambassador inviting me in,” he says. One of Angell’s raven sculptures, Transformation, is shaped from metamorphic rock from the northern Cascade Mountains. The medium, which slowly changed from green to black as he carved it, seemed appropriate for a raven. “In Native American culture, the raven is a trickster skilled at
changing itself to achieve its desires,” Angell says. “Some of the trickster may have been at work when I sculpted this piece.”

Featured in April 1998