Urgent Museum Notice

Maria Martinez

A medium-skinned, older woman working a ball of clay that she holds in her hands. She has grey hair cut just below the ear, medium skin tone and wears a blue dress and beaded necklaces of white, blue, red and silver. She is engrossed in the clay, her movements practiced.

Photo by Susan Peterson, courtesy of the Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ, USA, © Susan Peterson

1887 to 1980

Many of Martinez’s family members were involved in producing pots, and she learned to make pottery in the traditional way—watching her aunt and grandmother work. By age thirteen, she was already celebrated within the tribe for her creative skills.

She and her husband, Julian Martinez, revived an ancient local process for making the all-black pottery. Their blackware stood in marked contrast to the all-red or polychrome ware that had dominated the pueblo’s production for generations.

By the mid-1920s, Martinez’s blackware had become extremely popular outside the pueblo, thanks to a book published by the director of the Museum of New Mexico. Martinez was encouraged to sign her pots, which were beginning to be regarded as works of art rather than household or ritual vessels.

Martinez was awarded two honorary doctorates, had her portrait made by the noted American sculptor Malvina Hoffman, and in 1978 was offered a major exhibition by the Smithsonian Institution’s Renwick Gallery.

Artist Details

  • Name

    Maria Martinez
  • Birth

    San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1887
  • Death

    San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1980
  • Phonetic Spelling

    mah-REE-ah mahr-TEE-nehs
  • NMWA Exhibitions

Related Posts