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Native American Art Maria Martinez Essay

Art is defined as “one such as a painter, sculptor or writer who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value,” Answers. com, thus we define the works of the iconic pottery artist Maria Martinez with her worldly known gift of shaping earth residue to fine ceramic work. Nearing the end of 18th Century, using of plant pigments and powdered mineral residue became a preference method of painting and slowly caused the extinction of glazed pottery , therefore they needed a savior for their over a thousand legendary heritage of pottery was getting to extinction.

It was only timely that the birth of the famous Maria Martinez was on this time and the love of pottery as an art was in her blood. Her skill advanced with each pot, and her art began to cause quite a stir among collectors and developed into a business for the black ware pottery. In addition, Maria began experimenting her new models and methods to produce new shapes and decorations. The Life of Maria Martinez

It was in the between the year 1881- 1887 that a woman by the name of Reyes Pena and her husband a farmer, carpenter and cowboy Thomas Montanya in a village in San lldefonso, New Mexico, a small community of humble dwellings of the eastern bank of the Rio Grande gave birth to a beautiful girl by the name of Maria Antonia Montanya or famously called by her mother in her Tewa tongue, “Po-Ve-Ka” meaning “Pond Lily”. She was the second born of five siblings all girls.

Maria Antonia Montanya who was later to be called Maria Martinez grew up watching her mother’s sister Nicolasa Pena roll balls of clay in her moisten hand to make a tall cylinder which she would put in a contour then leveling the finished product with a smooth stone to give it a smooth finishing . She would then dry it and paint it with a variety of clay slips then fire it in a wood fire. By now young Maria would make small crooked bowls and pots on her own. After her education Maria Martinez came back home and perfected her pottery specializing in jars called ollas.

In 1904 a young lady of 17 years or so, she fell in love and married an art lover as herself, Julian Pocano Martinez a member of the same village who painted as she crafted pots, and later that evening boarded a train to a world fair in St. Louis, Missouri where they were to demonstrate their arts , Julian showing his custom dancing prowess with other village men while Maria shaped, fired and colored her ceramics. Later they opted on settling in their home village for good. They had same projects sometimes like the excavation headed by Dr.

Edgar Lee Hewett and later their work was viewed at the museum. They had four sons and a daughter who died an infant. Maria Martinez continued with pottery even after the death of her husband due to alcoholism. But she respected his memories and used to sign her work with all her names and many are seen with the name of her husband. Her works turned a poor, remote village into a craft center. Education & Awards In between pottery with her aunt and 1896 Maria went to a government grammar school where she received academic education then later joined St.

Catharine’s Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1912 Maria discovered her black-on-black technique but it was until 1919 that she and her husband went brave on decorating their wares with the shiny, glossy black look. By 1921 she had perfected the art and it was known widely and admired by many and taught her villagers that’s why by 1925 most of the villagers were molding the same technique. The Museum of Mexico collected much of the pieces for display and by 1930s Maria was financially independent due to the wide show of her work.

The year 1934 awards started streaming in Maria’s life, in this year she was the first woman to get a bronze medal for Indian achievement by the Indian fire Council, the University of Colorado and the University of New Mexico were among the four universities that awarded Maria Martinez honorary doctorate degrees. In 1954 the American institute of Architects awarded her the years Craftsmanship Medallion and the French bestowed to her the French Academiques for her contribution to art.

As if it wasn’t enough, in1969 she got the Minnesota Museum of Art’s Symbol of Man Award and in 1974 The New Mexico Arts Commission’s First Annual Governor’s Award. Description of Black-on-black Pottery One of the greatest achievements of Maria and Julia Martinez was the invention of the Black-on-black technique in pottery. For many generations, San lldefonso and the neighboring Pueblos made plain black pottery as their main traditional practice but in 1919 this was to change, for Maria and her husband discovered the use of decorations in the glossy black and matte black surfaces.

In 1921, the Martinez introduced the skill to their people who were enthusiastic of the change and had fun making this new type of ceramics. They then started selling them and within no time they had attracted the attention of the world on their art. By 1920 it was only natural for the museum of Mexico to collect and display the pieces of the ceramic in their exhibitions, and with this move the town of San lldefonso was a tourist stop and the Native Americans had a model. The rim of the jar ‘olla’ is usually slightly flattened and has an angle at the shoulder which is marked.

The rims of the jar created by the Martinez have decorations of continuous paneled bands above the angle of the shoulder. The pots have a smooth, shiny surface which reflects light. The ceramics are decorated using a lighter black band which winds around it. These decorations are manipulated as they appear as scratches on the pots surface. A serpent which has horns and wide eyes wraps the pot and crawls inside the thick light band as part of the decorations . The body movement of the snake appears to be alive which signifies the Pueblo community appreciation of nature and life.

The various decorations, gives the final products a unique look and personifies the object. Importance of the Black-on-black technique When the Pueblo people had nearly given up on their ancestral gift of pottery to help them in any way, Maria Martinez gave hope to them when she crafted with affection and feelings and the by product was a piece that was admired by the whole world, which brought change socially and economically to them. Their heritage was restored and they all went back into pottery and out of the village came many more world recognized potters.

The world attention turned the lldefenso town into a tourism center thus providing vocation to its people and it was no longer known as a poor village but a village with resources. The new technique appreciated the heritage of the Pueblos. More so, it brought different cultures from all over the world together to appreciate Mother Nature in giving the Pueblos a nice earth where they harvested the soil and for their artistic gift. Artistic Themes Presented In Pottery by Maria Martinez Daily Life In the early years of 1800 pueblo community was undergoing changes in both cultural and traditional practices.

Among the changes was the introduction of the cheap Spanish tin wares and Anglo enamelware that were taking the place of their handmade ceramics, the water jars and cooking pots, which were now being sold for a few cents to the tourist who came to their village. That was when Maria Martinez revived the art of pottery making among her people, reconnecting them to their ancestral way of life as they are known for their famous pottery that goes with their words according to Susan Peterson, “…they are their earth and their earth is them you cannot speak of one and forget the other. ” (13) Historic

Edgar Lee Hewett who knew of Maria Martinez slickness and thinning of her pottery, invited her to help in the excavation of old broken pieces of ancient pottery that were discovered in Puebloan sited on the Pajarito Plateau above San llidefenso . She got interested with the proposal to refurbish the old ceramic that were later displayed in the museum of New Mexico for the world to view the handiwork. Political Within a period of time the work of Maria Martinez was recognized by head of states for several generation and got the privilege to be invited to the white house by: Herbert Hoover, Franklin D.

Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson. She didn’t pass the recognition of an avid collector of her work John D. Rockefeller, Jr. , who requested her to lay a cornerstone for the Rockefeller Center in New York City. Spiritual Baring the fact that Maria was the most famous of all potters in Pueblo and one of the greatest potters in the world , in her mind she saw herself as just one of the traditional women of San lldefonso who made good pottery. And was quoted by Richard Spivey in His book Maria saying: “My Mother Earth gave me this luck. So I’m not going to keep it. I take care of our people.

” Her belief was seen and proved by the fact that she taught all she could the art of pottery that has been carried with her great and great-great grand children. Process Used To make the Black-on-Black Jar, Creating the black-on-black pottery is a tedious work that requires a lot of skill and patience. According to Susan Peterson of The Living Tradition of Maria Martinez pp164 -174 there are six important steps to be followed. Finding and collecting the clay, which is done in the month of October every year when it is dry and stored in an old weathered adobe structure, where the temperature is constant.

The clay is brought into the house, a cloth is laid upon the table, hold a mound of gray pink sand with a hole size of your fist at the center fill it with blue sand of the same amount. Make another hole inside the blue sand but of smaller size now then fill the hole with water. Knead the substance together. Pick within the cloth then wash cover with a towel to prevent the clay from loosing its moisture for it will be there for a day or two. The supporting mold “a fired clay shape the origin of a new formation” also known as pukis builds the pot base pancake looking kind of base.

Squeeze the clay together using your fingers shaping a wall up about an inch high from the pancake base. Make it thick and even by smoothing out the walls by making cross-crossing motions using a gourd rib. To increase the pots height coil long tubes of clay on top of the clay wall then smooth it out using the gourd. To patch air holes put extra clay seal away using the gourd rib. Scrap, sand and polish with stones after the pot is dry, this is the longest step in the whole process. The stones are to be applied to the side of the pot consistently, horizontally, with a rhythimic motion.

By rubbing the stone parallel to the pot’s side produces a glossy, polished balanced look. Finally burnish then fire the pottery. After decorating, the pot is finished. Visual Elements in Maria Martinez Pottery Shape – The pot has a shoulder, top, body and a pancake shaped base. “… The rim of an Olla jar is slightly flattened and has an angle at the shoulder. ” (Bunzel 44) Lines – they are also evident in Maria’s pottery like the band under the neck of the pot with the slithering snake nearly biting its tail.

“…the band wraps directly below the neck of the pot. ” (Bunzel 44) Texture – The pots are known of their glossy, smooth even tone that even reflects light. A stone is used for smoothing the texture of the pot. “…by rubbing the stone parallel to the side of the pot produces a smooth, even look to the pot. ” (Bunzel 44) Color – The final process in pottery is decorating the pot by giving it hue and color. The black-on-black technique was loved because it did not only have the deep black color but defined with a light black band.

Value –The revival of the ancestral art and innovation of the black-on-black technique added value to the pottery work, thus they are presently sold for several thousand dollars a piece. “:… Since her death her art and that of her family has gotten more collectible and difficult to get. ” Sublette J Mark. Principles of Design in Maria Martinez Pottery The principles of design are basically the recipe for a good work of art. The principles combine the elements of artistic placement of the art to produce a good design.

For example center of interest, harmony, balance, directional movement, rhythm. Center of interest – The serpent below the neck of the jar attracts your attention the moment you see the pot. The horned big eyed serpent slithers and coils through from side to side nearly biting its tail. The pot is extra soft and glossy due to the technique of black-on-black. Harmony – Maria harmonized her work by putting even thickness in walls and exceptional symmetry. She was known for her skill in polishing and getting a fiery shiny surface on the pot.

Her decorative designs worked in harmony with the surfaces and shapes; she rarely repeated her designs except for the special avanyu which was a mythical water serpent. Balance – In making the famous Olla jar the fast and must step was making a pancake like base to stabilize and create balance of the pot. So balance was fundamental for the success of the famous jar. Directional Movement – The decoration of the serpent body slithering round the pot seems alive and gives unique movement from the head of the serpent to the tail back to the head and not getting out of the band which has now taken place for the serpent’s path.


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