Bob Haozous | Sistine Cowboy



In this 1988 steel sculpture by Bob Haozous, the artist has depicted a man in a reclined position, arm outstretched, holding a gun. The title of the work, Sistine Cowboy, references Michelangelo Buonarroti’s famed Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, more specifically the fresco The Creation of Adam, in which Michelangelo painted a God figure reaching toward the hand of a human man (Adam), arm outstretched in an act of receiving life from his creator. In Haozous’s work, however, the life cycle seems to be in reverse, inasmuch as the man he has created is riddled with bullet holes, perhaps reaching his arm forward toward his assailant in a final breath. The man is featured fully nude, donning the iconography of a cowboy, complete with a hat and boots. The resplendent work from which this sculpture draws its name is replaced with a narrative not of creation, but of destruction.

Weathering steel
17 x 41 1/2 x 4 1/4 in
Gift of Natalie Eigen
Image by Craig Smith for Heard Museum

Warm Springs Chiricahua Apache, b. 1943
Bob Haozous is an acclaimed artist specializing in monumental public sculptures. He studied sculpture under Ella Hays at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, receiving his BFA in 1970. His career advanced quickly, and by 1973 Haozous had won the Gold Medal in Wood at the Heard Museum’s Sculpture Exhibition. At the Heard’s next sculpture exhibition, a stone piece by Haozous titled “White Steele” earned first prize. In 1983, both he and his father, Allan Houser (Chiricahua Apache), were honored with a sculpture retrospective at the museum. Haozous’s work is often ironic, humorous and symbolic, with references to his concerns about technological intrusion and the environment as well as the differences in Euro-American and Indigenous perspectives. He fabricated five monumental steel sculptures for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and his work was exhibited at the Clinton White House as well as in the Clinton Library. Haozous and Nancy Marie Mithlo worked with a team of Indigenous artists, educators and activists to develop the exhibition Ceremonial, which opened at the 53rd Biennale di Venezia in 1999. His most recent sculpture, Racism Shrine (2020), is a 48-foot anti-monument, interrogating and calling out the racism ensconced within the framework of the United States of America and the institution of monument-making. His work can be found in many prominent public collections, including the British Museum, the Philbrook Museum and the Wheelwright Museum, with many works also housed here at the Heard Museum.