Maria Martinez

Maria Martinez

1887–1980

Artist Details

Birth Place
San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Death Place
San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Phonetic Spelling
mah-REE-ah mahr-TEE-nehs
Medium
Decorative and utilitarian works
Style
Traditional art
Places of Residence
San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Retrospective Exhibitions

Maria Martinez, Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico, 2013; Maria Martinez: Five Generations of Potters, Renwick Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1978

NMWA Exhibitions

New Ground: The Southwest of Maria Martinez and Laura Gilpin, 2017
The Legacy of Generations: Pottery by American Indian Women, 1997–98
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997, 1997–98
American Indian Pottery from the Collection, 1997–98

About the Artist

For more than eight decades, Maria Martinez continued and extended the centuries-old pottery traditions of San Ildefonso Pueblo in northern New Mexico. She is considered a matriarch of Native American pottery.

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 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. 

National Museum of Women in the Arts