Oct 4, 2015

Sculptor Profile :: Doug Hyde

Doug Hyde's sculptures are testimonies to the Native American life and experience. His stone work reflects the daily existence of the Indian tribes native to the American west. The sculptures, life-size to monumental, tell stories of entire people whose identities are characterized by the contributions they have made to make to their community. There are monuments to potters, hunters, weavers and harvesters; there are statues depicting tribal traditions of dancing and teaching; and there are memorials to Native American ancestors and heroes. Through the medium of stone, Hyde has become a documentarian of tribal traditions and customs, reaffirming the Native American's place in America's history and their importance in America's future.

Hyde, of course, has powerful sympathies for his subject matter. A descendent of the Nez Perze, Assiniboine and Chippewa tribes, his passion for sculpting the Native American life came naturally. He credits his grandfather and other elders of his community for instilling in him his ancestral interest. "They called my grandfather 'The Judge'," begins Hyde. "He was considered a very wise and honest man. He and some of the other elders taught me a lot about Indian mythology and folklore. There are legends and tales that feature animal characters that teach the morals of the people, and the nature of Mother Earth, and how humans came to be. These were traditions their generation passed down to me." And now Hyde passes the tradition down to a new generation, letting stone be his voice. Hyde sculpts in the manner of the great Indian carvers who long preceded him. The rounded forms and the simple lines combine to make solid figures with bold features and a magnetic draw. The quiet dignity and stoicism of his subjects is captured in the stillness of the stone and the gravity of an entire population is expressed in Hyde's medium choice. The stone lends an organic feel and reminds the observer that these are people just as much of the earth as the earth is of them.

Over the years Hyde has earned a reputation as a sculptor of tribal life and has created over a half a dozen monuments for various Southwestern tribes. As much as he loves to honor his fellow Native Americans with these sculptural tributes, Hyde dreads the unveilings. "Native Americans are my greatest fans and my biggest critics. They will tell me flat out when they are not pleased. I was designing a monument for the Cahuilla tribe of Palm Springs, California and when I explained to one of the tribal members that I would be incorporating figures that would be 16 feet tall, he simply turned to me and said, 'We are not that tall,' and walked out of the room." However, when the sculpture was completed the tribal council not only gavetheir wholehearted approval, they commissioned Hyde for another monument.

Doug Hyde was born in Hermiston, Oregon in 1946, but grew up on a reservation in Idaho. In 1963 he moved to New Mexico to attend the fabled Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. Hyde's initial interest was painting but the moment he was introduced to sculpture he fully embraced it. "I enjoyed the resistance of the material; the give and take of the medium," Hyde explains. Hyde studied under Allan Houser, a renowned Apache sculptor and Fellow member of NSS. "I credit Allan Houser for opening up the whole world of sculpture to me. He showed me the tools and the process; how to do everything by hand. I created everything in every medium from paper to clay to wood to stone with him." The two men remained close friends until Houser's death in 1994.

In 1967, Hyde attended the San Francisco Art Institute on scholarship before enlisting with the U.S. Army. He served two tours in Viet Nam, but was severely injured by a grenade during his second tour and returned home. Recuperating stateside, Hyde took a job at a friend's memorial business and began to explore the use of power tools in cutting and shaping stone. Hyde was immediately enamored with the technology. "I am not a purist. I don't believe in laboring over a stone by hand if I can use something that will help me cut stone and get to the figure that lies within sooner."

Hyde ventured back to Santa Fe in 1972 and firmly made it his home. He returned to the Institute of American Indian Arts as well, only this time as a teacher. "I still teach there. There are children there from different states and tribes and it is just as much an education for me as it is for them. I learn about different tribes and their interests and traditions. It has helped me a lot with the tribal commissions." Although Hyde has worked in a variety of mediums, he feels a loyalty to stone. " I am a stone man first and always," Hyde boasts. "There is something about stone that I truly love. It's the different colors, patterns, textures, weight; I find it very inspiring. I have done bronzes, but for me the duplication process loses something of the original energy of the piece. Creating the clay, then the mold, then the bronze; several generations have withered away during that process, whereas the idea and the energy is always fresh and original in stone." Not that ideas come to Hyde like a thunderbolt out-of -the-blue whenever he gazes upon a stone. "I had this one stone in my studio for two or three years. Everyday I would look at it and try to figure out the image underneath. Nothing. Then one day I walked in and there it was, a salmon in a net. I carved it right away."

Hyde treasures the sculptures of Jose DeCreeft and heralds Zuniga as his all time favorite sculptor. However, Hyde finds himself revisiting books on ancient Eskimo art over and over again. "I like the forms they used and the subject matter they sculpted. They used different materials and created mystical and spiritual sculptures. And their reference was very limited. They were living in a land of ice and snow and yet they created a body of work of such depth and feeling. I like the rudimentary style and feel of those works."

For Hyde the favorite part of carving his own work is adding texture to a piece. This is something he reserves for the end because he admittedly thinks it is the most fun. "I will either polish a piece to a smooth silky finish or bruise the stone. Sometimes I will put up to three textures in one sculpture and each type of stone yields to the texture in a different way which makes it exciting too. I might start out carving a sculpture in one way, but by the time I apply the texture, the sculpture may have transformed itself into something I didn't expect at all."

Today Hyde's work can be found in collections all over the United States including the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, Texas; Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Museum of the Plains Indian, Browning, Montana; Lewis and Lewis and Clark State College, Lewiston, Idaho and Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. His commissions include Agua Caliente Women, Palm Springs, California; Chief Joseph, Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC; Greeting the Morning Star, Palm Desert, California and Intertribal Greeting, Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona. He has exhibited extensively at such important venues as the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Prix de West Invitational Exhibition, National Cowboy Hall of Fame, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; The Contemporary West Exhibition, Carmel, California, Great American Artists Exhibition, Cincinnati, Ohio; and at "Twentieth Century American Sculpture at the White House honoring Native America", Washington, D.C. He has had the honor of being a juror for several Native American exhibitions and in 1998 he had the distinction of being named the Institute of American Indian Arts Foundation's Visionary Award co-recipient along with Senator Pete Domenici.

Hyde keeps a busy schedule between creating commissions and teaching, but always manages to work in his studio seven days a week. "I want to keep sculpting way past the age of ninety and the only way I know how to do that is by sculpting every single day."