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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Maria Montoya Martinez

b. 1887, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico; d. 1980, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico

Maria Montoya Martinez, in collaboration with her husband Julian, revitalized the ancient tradition of Pueblo pottery. A Tewa Indian of San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico, she learned the craft as a girl, from her aunt Nicolasa Peña Montoya. In 1907, she became an assistant in archaeological excavations conducted by the School of American Research in Santa Fe; the project director encouraged her to replicate the pottery designs found at the sites. Maria made the pottery, her husband executed the painting, and within a few years they had mastered the traditional forms of polychrome and polished black and red pottery. Their work circulated to a wide audience through sales to museums brokered by the school. In 1919, Maria and Julian created a new pottery type: polished blackware decorated with matte-black paint. The black-on-black process was adopted by potters throughout the Tewa pueblos. After her husband’s death in 1943, Martinez collaborated with her daughter-in-law Santana and her son Popovi Di. She was the first Pueblo potter to routinely sign her work, initially with her Tewa name, Po’ve’ka, “Pond Lily.”