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Learn about the blackware pottery by Maria Martinez

Posted on 03/17/2020 at 02:00 PM by Allison Sheridan

Object(s) of the Day: blackware pottery by Maria Martinez

Maria Martinez (1887-1980) is perhaps the most famous female Native American artist of the 20th century, a true matriarch of her Pueblo, and is a well-known ceramicist celebrated for her blackware pottery.

Martinez was taught at a very young age how to throw pots and continued to produce pottery until 1970. Revitalizing Pueblo pottery traditions, Martinez’s creative process and artistic development was directly influenced by the shapes, patterns, and colors found in historic pottery of the San Ildelfonso Pueblo established c. 1300 in the region north of modern day Santa Fe.

Blackware vessels, with glossy and matte designs of stylized, almost modern, images such as feathers (seen here), were traditionally used as water jars and food storage. The unique black color is achieved by the Martinez family by using a fire reduction method for pottery firing. This method reduces the amount of oxygen available in the kiln, and by smothering the fire often with cow or horse dung, the pottery is carbonized.

The blackware pottery of Maria Martinez is one of many highlights of the exhibition Creating a Global Understating in the Christian Petersen Art Museum. 

The University Museums’ permanent collection contains examples of Navajo weaving, Native basketry, sculpture, prints and pottery from the Northeast, Southwest, Midwest, Pacific Northwest and tribes of Canada. Much of the collection was obtained pre-1940 by Iowa State College faculty on research trips. The University Museums’ permanent collection will be enriched in the next year through a gift of several hundred objects including pottery, basketry, textiles, jewelry, and kachina figures from benefactor Joyce Tomlinsen Brewer, an Iowa State graduate, thus building the story of indigenous art.

IMAGES

Pot, 1930s by Maria Montoya Poveka Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, 1887–1980) and Julian Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, 1879–1943). Gift of Margaret Griffin Groll. In the permanent collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM82.27

Small Plate, 1943-1954 by Maria Montoya Poveka Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, 1887–1980) and Santana Martinez (San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico, 1909–2002). Gift of Carol Grant. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2005.292

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