Steph chose the following for the Grounded in Clay exhibit:
Masterful, Magical, Matriarch: Maria Martinez
In my mind, Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso Pueblo is, hands down, the “master Pueblo potter” of our time. Part of me wanted to select a pottery from another gifted artist who did not receive as much attention or as many accolades as Maria.
As I looked through the vessels in the SAR collection, I kept coming back to the Maria Martinez pieces for a few reasons. One, Maria Martinez was the first Pueblo woman I had seen on screen—on a TV screen when I was in the fourth grade in the 1970s. My teacher showed us a documentary on Maria. As a young girl from Sandia Pueblo, I was amazed. I had never before seen a Pueblo woman on television, nor had I seen any Pueblo person’s artwork being discussed, respected, or treasured. While I have always been proud to be from Sandia Pueblo, my pride rocketed after seeing that documentary.
The second reason I was drawn to this piece was because of the etching of Maria and her husband, Julian, on the plate. I had never seen anything like it; it felt like a “selfie,” and it proved to me that Maria was a Renaissance woman who was way before her time.
Finally, the piece was Maria’s signature black-on-black pottery—but it was the etched “selfie” that continued to intrigue. At one point while studying the plate in my white gloves, I became wrapped up in the knowledge that I was holding and touching the work of the great clay genius Maria Martinez. It was a surreal and powerful moment for me.