Monday, February 15, 2010

Being Martinez: San Ildefonso Potter Marvin Martinez on Maria and the Family that Made Him Famous

There are moments in life when you have to pinch yourself and be reminded that, indeed, you are there, living an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  In my forty years, I've been in the position to meet some extraordinary people, but they were in equally glamorous situations, surrounded by other people.  In the Southwest, it's the Native American artists who are the real celebrities, and real is what you get with them.  There's no glamour.  There's no glitz--just total heart and passion.  Profoundly, there is also the reminder of why we are here on this planet--to express the will of a higher power through the talents we have been given.

Last Friday, while waiting for another artist who was scheduled to arrive at Andrews Pueblo Pottery and Art Gallery in Albuquerque's Old Town, the most extraordinary opportunity found its way into my life, and I have to say that I am still a little bit in awe. San Ildefonso potter Marvin Martinez arrived out of the blue to sell gallery owner Bob Andrews some of his work that included smaller Avanyu (the iconic waterserpent) pots, as well as gunmetal-colored stone-polished medicine bear clay fetishes with a shine that would make you think they were anything but clay.  Since I am currently reading Alice Marriott's 1940s biography of Marvin's great-grandmother Maria Martinez, Maria: The Potter of San Ildefonso, meeting him was a particular treat and connected me even more to the book.

Anyone familiar with traditional Pueblo Pottery knows that husband and wife artists Maria and Julian Martinez were Pueblo Pottery royalty and best known for their black on black designs.  Maria hand-coiled the pots and polished them, while Julian painted on the designs.  Marvin and his wife, originally of the Santa Clara Pueblo, where potters are known for their fine polishing work, create pottery together.  In general, Marvin and Frances share the duty of making the pottery with Frances coiling and polishing the red clay prior to firing. Next, Marvin paints the intricate and beautiful designs on the pots and they are fired.  Marvin is quick to say that while he learned a great deal about life from his great-grandmother, it was Maria's son Adam and his wife Santana Martinez that taught him what he knows about making pottery. Now deceased, they were pottery stars in their own right, and often lived in the shadow of Maria and Julian.  He honors Adam and Santana wholeheartedly because they were the people who raised him.

Not wanting to miss an opportunity to learn about Marvin's life as a Martinez, and, by serendipity, having brought my Flip camera along, we sat down at the old Spanish-style pueblo-made table at Andrews and chatted.   See my very special and candid interview with Marvin Martinez here:

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