Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

After original work was destroyed, Caddo artist debuts new piece at Dallas Museum of Art

Three clay figures are seen, the largest of which depicts an alligator gar. The other two are a snapping turtle with a bear on its back and an alligator with a coyote on its back.
Brad Flowers
Courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art
Batah Kuhuh Bit: Alligator Gar 2, The Resilience of the River People.

In 2022, the art world was in shock when news broke that somebody allegedly broke into the Dallas Museum of Art and started smashing priceless pieces of work.

In total, around $5 million of art was destroyed and police at the time said that the assailant went on this rampage because he was “mad at his girl.”

When the assailant broke into the museum, he shattered three artifacts from Ancient Greece and a four foot ceramic alligator gar fish that took Caddo artist Chase Kahwinhut Earles six months to complete.

A clay figure depicts an alligator gar.
Courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art
Batah Kuhuh Bit: Alligator Gar 2, The Resilience of the River People.

“It’s a very ancient fish,” Earles said. “One of the biggest fish in the rivers in the Caddo homeland areas.”

The Caddo are an American Indian community of about 7,000 whose ancestors lived in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and East Texas.

Earles is one of the few contemporary Caddo artists who makes a living representing their culture. When he found out that one of most ambitious pieces had been destroyed, he was devastated.

» RELATED: Caddo Mounds historic site reopens 5 years after tornado destroyed property

“It was really shocking,” Earles explained. “But it was also devastating because getting a work of art into the Dallas Museum of Art is huge.”

Clay pottery is seen on the ground around an open flam in an outdoors scene.
Courtesy of Chase Kahwinhut Earles
Caddo artist Chase Kahwinhut Earles creates ceramics through open ground wood fire.

Soon after disaster struck, the Dallas Museum of Art commissioned Earles to make three new pieces titled Batah Kuhuh Bit: Alligator Gar 2, The Resilience of the River People.

To get the job done, the museum gave Earles fragments of his original alligator gar to mix into the clay for the new pieces.

“That is actually a very specific Caddo tradition,” Earles said. “It was kind of cool to be able to take the former piece and add it to the new work. So all three pieces have crushed up clay from the original.”

Earles’ new work debuted this past weekend and is currently on display.

“This piece makes a poetic statement about rebirth, resilience, and perseverance,” wrote the Dallas Museum of Art in a statement to Texas Standard. “Chase transformed that difficult experience into something new and beautiful, and we are so grateful to him for his collaboration and ingenuity.”

Earles is also currently working on a book inspired by an ancient Caddo fish dance and the alligator gar fish.

“Caddos haven’t written any story in hundreds of years,” said Earles. “But these pieces that are going in the Dallas Museum of Art, they’re all illustrative of this story, so when I finally do release the book, they’ll carry it.”

Texas Standard’s attempts to interview a representative from the Dallas Museum of Art were unsuccessful.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on and Thanks for donating today.