Photography
© Ely Abrums and Laura Walker

Adam & Santana Martinez (1901-1999 & 1909-2002)

Adam & Santana Martinez, San Ildefonso Pueblo

Santana and Adam Martinez both came from famous San Ildefonso pottery families. Adam was the oldest son of Maria and Julian Martinez and learned to make pottery from his parents. Santana Roybal Martinez learned from her maternal grandmother, Pino Martinez, her mother Alfonsita and her aunt, Tonita Roybal. Adam and Santana lived with Maria and Julian for several years after they were married. During that time Julian trained Santana in the fine art of pottery painting. After Julian passed away in 1943 Santana began painting for Maria until Maria began collaborating with her son Popovi Da. Then Santana and Adam began making pottery of their own, around 1956. They earned widespread respect for their abilities in making and painting pottery and they passed on their techniques to their seven children who have also distinguished themselves in pottery making.

Adam’s mother, Maria Martinez who is perhaps the best known of all pueblo Indian potters. She brought fame to San Ildefonso pueblo in the early 1920’s when, inspired by potsherds unearthed at archaeological digs, she developed her distinctive matte-on-black pottery. Adam learned from his mother and continues the tradition creating exquisite black pottery pieces and graceful bear fetishes. He is also known for his musical talent singing and drumming at age 90 for pueblo visitors. Santana Roybal Martinez, Adam’s wife for 67 years, was also encouraged in the family’s pottery creation and further developed by Maria and Julian. For many years she decorated Maria’s pottery and is now a nationally acclaimed artist in her own right. They are potters who have been continuing the tradition of the old ways and have spent much of their lives teaching others so the tradition is carried on in future generations. The development of pottery-making, salable to outsiders, into a full-time industry was of major economic importance to the pueblo as a whole.

Barbara Gonzales, the Martinez’s grand-daughter, said American Indian culture does not permit her to boast of the accomplishments of her grandparents, but their art will live on long after they are gone, just like that of Maria Martinez.

For Additional Information:
American Indian Art Series: Pueblo Indian Pottery (750 Artist Biographies) by Gregory Schaaf


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