Thursday, September 27, 2018

Our Second by Peter Reum

               Our Second

There was a time long ago
When I had infinite seeds to sow
Like Johnny Appleseed planted
Endless fruit freely granted
There were no results worrying long
Doubting that my seeds were strong

The first seed that germinated
Canceled anger for those terminated
The feelings of aloneness abated
I finally belonged to someone
Whose heritage was concentrated
In a tiny human brought to life
Whose development was in my wife

My then wife wanted more kids
We came together, to extend our brood
At first things were quite normal
Circumstances were conspiringly rude
To terminate our son's life before
We could plan his birth and ignore
The complications that closed his door

My then wife fell deeply in grief
Came through intact gave her relief
She wanted a second child because
Our lovely daughter needed company
Saying no child should grow up alone
My intuition warned me the second 
Would have complications unknown

She was born on a cold winter day
Her emergence was in a sacred way
Enchanted were we the doctor would say
He had never delivered hearing angels play
As time conspired to smudge our joy
I noticed our new baby was delayed
In development markers along her way

Her best friend noticed circumstances
That caused concern for me and chances
Were ripe for disappointment for my wife
She seemed to say that our baby's life
Would be fine there could be nothing
Wrong but when her friend disclosed
Our second baby's life faced a crooked road

Her husband and best friend had displaced
The pride of giving the baby sacred grace
My then wife was so deeply grieving
The child whose life faced weaving
A blanket of colors different from our first
My wife tried to hide her grief, her joy burst

My special education history took action
To mitigate my beautiful baby's traction
When things emerged that I saw coming
Our child's mother could not face
That our daughter she thought a disgrace

Although I knew that genetic consultation
Would most likely fail to answer
My wife acted like our baby had cancer
Stoically seeking an answer she looked
For a reason our second child miscooked

God brought a package that winter day
Whose life I still celebrate in every way
My then wife slowly died tragically 
While my absence daily I wished magically
Would end amicably  my grief fell tragically

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Devil Is In the Details by Peter Reum

I have covered many topics in the years I have written this blog. I have generally steered clear of political topics and religion.
I have been acutely aware of the sexual abuse of children and adults for years. The tendency was to ignore these incidents, especially in institutions serving children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. Perpetrators ranged from family, to peers, to paid staff.  Incest was the hidden crime, with children  fearing to accuse family members for fear of beatings, intensified sexual abuse, or expulsion from the family into unknown and dreaded alternatives.

The religious institutions and denominations of the world have been traditionally regarded as holy and generally less sinful than the world at large. Exceptions to this expected "best behavior" became scandalous. There was almost a prurient interest when people involved with the ministry or nunnery were exposed for sexual misbehavior every year.

In the last 50+ years, ministers in conservative fundamentalist churches
have been exposed for condemning gay and lesbian Christians who are not "out." At least one conservative Christian in Congress who condemned gay rights was exposed in
every two year session as being someone who is gay or lesbian in the closet, but was publicly condemning of gay and lesbian sexual behavior.

This phenomenon is related to the stigma suffered by childhood sexual abuse victims, and the attempts by victims of childhood sexual abuse to "purge" themselves of the self-hatred they feel after violation. This does not imply that gay and lesbian adults hate themselves for their sexual preference, but that in certain cases, sexual abuse victims may repeat the abuse they experienced themselves.

Perhaps the most disturbing behavior over
the last 50 years has been the disclosure of extensive sexual abuse of children, many of whom were altar boys, by Roman Catholic clergy in several dioceses in the American Roman Catholic Church.

The recent investigation of  the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pennsylvania by the attorney general of Pennsylvania disclosed today was only the latest in a string of extensively investigated and well documented cases of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy. The New York Times published three excellent articles today about the documented sexual abuse of over 1000 Pennsylvania boys and girls over a 40 year period by some 300 Catholic clergy.

What makes the report most disturbing is the investigation's disclosure of clergy and bishops actively colluding to bury the accusations of sexual abuse by Diocese of Pennsylvania  clerical leadership, including
monsignors, bishops, and archbishops. The
grand jury's report indicated that cover up
efforts even extended to Catholic officials in Rome. The grand jury also concluded that possibly up to five abuse victims did not report sexual abuse for every victim who reported the sexual abuse to authorities.

This report is not isolated. There are reports from almost 40 dioceses of sexual abuse of children. The Roman Catholic laypeople of the United States as a group need to speak up for the children who were victimized by clergy.  Direct action could perhaps discourage church leaders from trying to bury accusations of sexual abuse of minors.

The clearest prospect for effectiveness for prevention of childhood abuse by clergy is the education of young children of what sexual abuse is, how not to be fooled by sexual predators, and how to prevent being isolated by potential abusers.

The best remedy for childhood sexual abuse victims is counseling, followed by education. For those children, the first and most important knowledge each child should hear in post sexual abuse therapy is that they are in no way responsible for the abuse they experienced, and that they are heroes for reporting what happened to them. Helping victims to understand the reality that the sexual abuse was a violation that was perpetrated by a sexual predator can reduce the tendency to keep the abuse a secret, thereby inducing toxic shame and self-hatred.

I can personally vouch for the tendency to feel toxic shame and to thereby keep
childhood sexual abuse as an undisclosed
shameful experience rather than disclose it, even to parents, close friends, and other family members. After 30 years, the day I shared the incident with pertinent professionals was the beginning of my personal healing experience.

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 25, 2018

SMILE.Always by Lola Reum (Written by my 10 year old daughter)

Captured, Modified,  Sent out Again.
The process repeats. Over and over.
All in a circle. Over and over.
Until a night they couldn't find it.
The circle turned itself into a mess of scribbles.
Chasing the Creation.
Over and over.
Again añd again.
Tracks left , over and over.
The cycle repeats, Kill, Eat, Run Again.
A loose experiment running the streets.
Over and over. The cycle repeats.

Caged, Tortured, Sent again.
The doctor leaves a wide smile on it's face.
The signature Black, Yellow, Grey colors
circling its body.
Hypnotic eyes swirling, in and out, in and out.
He does this again, to each subject.
They wander around its creator.
Circling him.
Each smile shows his objective.
Swirling eyes, each looking at him.
Laughter can be heard.
Scarred paws.
Scarred souls.
Each following his every command.

Lola Lynn Reum

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Refreshing and Tasteful Symphonic Beach Boys Album by Peter Reum

Well, my initial reaction to the news that there would be another album of Beach Boys tunes with orchestral accompaniment was a sarcastic snort followed by Taps and the presentation of the flag to the family. It seemed that yet another odious cd would enter my collection because...well...because it is an orchestral Beach Boys cd, dammit!

Some of you may recall that in the mid Sixties,  Capitol released two Hollyridge Strings compilations of Beach Boy tunes. The first one focused on the 1962 to 1964 tunes, and the second collected mid Sixties tunes.
The Hollyridge Strings Play The Beach Boys Songbook Volume 2

Murry Wilson's 1967 Capitol lp brought fans
to hysterical laughter.  His bragging about his songwriting  led to the hilarious conclusion that whatever talent the musical wizard gave Brian, Carl, and Dennis was a double portion because the Wiz skipped Murry and gave his portion to the Boys instead. The one highlight of the album is called Italia. Alan Jardine wrote Italia, and the instrumental was produced by Brian.

Murry Wilson
Written by Alan Jardine
Produced by Brian Wilson

In the early part of the first decade of this new century, Bruce Johnston  supervised  the recording of the first symphonic album of Beach Boys music since a Gary Usher interpretation of Beach Boys music that was recorded in an orchestral format. Both albums are a significant improvement over the Hollyridge Strings. The Usher album is particularly sensitive to the songs Brian Wilson wrote.

Gary Usher-Fall Breaks and Back to Winter/
Good Vibrations

As the Seventies went on, The Beach Boys productions responsibility shifted from Carl Wilson back to Brian Wilson, with a transition to a more rocking sound. After the success of 15 Big Ones, Beach Boys Love You, while a critical success, was a sales stiff. 

After Beach Boys Love You, the Beach Boys signed what was possibly a sweet deal with CBS Records. The group, jealously angry at Dennis Wilson's solo album sales success, played a show at the CBS Convention. The group nearly broke up after a free concert in New York City. As the group was at loose ends, Brian filed for divorce, his health beginning to decline. Michael Love's corporation agreed to produce some solo work by Love, including a Ron Altbach arrangement of Beach Boys songs, complete with strings. The Beach Boys Suite. The arrangement by Altbach is compelling. The Suite is completely intrumental. Like some other pieces, It begins with the stately
California Girls introduction, and continues for 30+ minutes.

Things were quiet for several  years.  In 1998, a Beach Boys set of songs arranged in a classical style album format was cut with Bruce Johnston's assistance. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the same orchestra that cut the 2018 album recently
released, put together this album as a cd with a mixture of assembled songs as short suites, isolated tunes arranged in orchestral
arrangements, and rearrangements of well known Beach Boys' songs. 

Bruce's involvement in the album appears to be as a consultant to the orchestra regarding the repertoire of music recorded for the album. Bruce, of course, is a veteran producer and arranger of music for a variety of artists. His best recorded work is with the Beach Boys, in tunes like Disney Girls, Endless Harmony, and Dierdre. Both Michael Love and Bruce Johnston were involved in giving major input for the orchestral repertoire on this album. Reviews at the time of the album's release were generally positive. Personally, I rank this album's quality as the best RELEASED
cd up to 1998. The album is not as good as the Ron Altbach arranged Beach Boys Suite. As mentioned above in this article, The Beach Boys Suite is best found in a veteran Beach Boys collector's cassette stash.

Bruce Johnston and Michael Love
discuss 2003 cd with Royal 
Philharmonic Orchestra

This first collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was the best widely marketed symphonic album of Beach Boys music up to 2003. Although Ron Altbach's Beach Boys Suite was superior, it was a very limited edition.

For the next 15 years, Mike and Bruce's traveling band played Beach Boys music while elsewhere, Brian Wilson and his band played Brian Wilson composed music, mainly from the Beach Boys' repertoire 
along with music from Brian's solo albums.
It appeared to this writer that the two touring units had some overlap of tunes, with the difference being that The Beach Boys with Michael and Bruce tended to mix hits with deep cuts from Beach Boys albums.

Brian and his touring band focused on songs Brian had composed for the Beach Boys and his solo albums. Brian's band was given to playing Brian's music with close attention to accurately replicating  Brian's productions from the versions on the original albums. Both units had their fans. Fans attracted by the Beach Boys' hits tended to go to Michael's shows. Hard core Brianistas who loved that band's ability to play the music Brian composed as he produced it in the Beach Boys' heyday. 

After roughly 14 years of producing several compilations, two boxed sets, and the 2012 studio and live albums, it became less likely each year that there would be an album of new material, or an imaginative reissue of old tunes. Capitol instead presented with a completely new approach for the 
future, utilizing the idea of approaching the Beach Boys with the goal of recording
the orchestra with the original Brian Wilson tracks, giving the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra the opportunity to act as an an ambassador to listeners who have not heard the sounds of classical and pop music in such a well loved group as the Beach Boys.

The music on this cd is composed by Brian Wilson with several lyricists such as Michael Love, Roger Christian, Gary Usher, Van Dyke Parks, and the great Tony Asher.
The only exceptions to these credits are Kokomo, the group's late Eighties hit, and Bruce's Disney Girls from the Surfs Up album.

On some the interview segments put together for the album's publicity campaign, the surviving members of the group are genuinely pleased by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's respectful treatment of the original recordings, which, due to Brian's care and attention to detail, sound as fresh as they did when cut 50 years ago. All surviving Sixties Beach Boys are enthusiastic about the manner in which the Royal  Philharmonic Orchestra added
their varied sounds and instrumentation.

Perhaps the project's managers say it best. In the cd's booklet opening remarks, "We were both brought up on the summer sounds of the happy feel good vibrations of the greatest harmony group of our time. To delve deep into the original  recordings and discover the in-depth genius of the vocal and original sounds that the group created, then add our special symphonic sounds to these classic songs has been a real honor and an absolute joy to behold." The men who oversaw the Orchestra's additions to the original master recordings,  Don Reedman and Nick Patrick, took special care to augment the songs' existing production, instead of overpowering the sounds of Brian Wilson's original productions. 

Other than a brief introduction to the album, entitled "California Suite," the songs chosen by Reedman and Patrick are the original masters as produced by Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, and Bruce Johnston. As if to challenge the notion that orchestras
should never record true flatout rock and roll songs, the use of the instruments to fill in open spaces in Fun Fun Fun and to lightly add power to the original track, making it sound more powerful than ever brings new energy to an already classic Brian Wilson and Michael Love tune.

Some of Brian Wilson and Tony Asher's Pet Sounds songs are similarly treated with the attention to where Royal Philharmonic's sounds would enhance the instrumental colors of the tunes. My favorite Pet Sounds tune, Here Today, uses brass and strings to add turbulence to what must be the tune that illustrates the uncertainty and inner turmoil that new love creates. Wouldn't It Be Nice and God Only Knows are made more dramatic by the strings the Orchestra
adds to both songs. In a similar manner, Heroes and Villains and Good Vibrations grow even more radical in sound production from the  touches the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra adds. 

There are a few tunes that probably would not be on my list for Orchestral augmemtation, such as Darlin' and Disney Girls. The care that the Orchestra exercised
in not trampling the original masters' integrity can be said to be the essential modesty of the project's co-directors.

Perhaps the most telling of the assessments made by critics and followers of Beach Boys music is made by the creator/arranger/ producer of the original recordings, Brian Wilson. Brian often describes the music he and the band made as being "filled with love." While it is impossible to discern what Brian exactly means by "full of love," my best guess is that he is speaking of the group's efforts to make the closest to perfect recordings possible to make every time the group went into the studio. If it is possible, the essential respect  shown by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for how Beach Boy records sound, and their care to only augment those master recordings' sound and not damage the integrity of Brian's productions makes this project the most satisfying of all the orchestral recordings of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys ever made.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Anthony Bourdain - We Lost a Citizen of the World Today by Peter Reum

Sometimes the news brings information that just makes my soul hurt. It is often information that is terrible because it is so surprising and heartbreaking at the same time. This morning brought the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. It immediately felt simultaneously as if I had been tased and hit in the solar plexus.

So many tributes have poured in all day. Presidents Obama and Trump finally agreed on something--their respect and admiration for Anthony Bourdain. People from all walks of life and many countries and professions expressed their deep sorrow and the positive impact he had upon people around the world. He brought people together. People who are entertainers, chefs, scientists, national presidents, physicians, gastronomes, and working people around the globe offered tributes, adulation, and respect. But the people who watched his CNN show, if they are like me, respected his honesty, candor, storytelling, and respect for ordinary world citizens.

When Anthony Bourdain spoke about people and issues he cared about, he was always listened to, even by people who disagreed with him. His recent advocacy for the ceasing of sexual blackmail and harassment by men around the world was a major independent source of validation of the injurious emotional and spiritual fallout from use of power to obtain sexual favor. One of the reasons his message brought gravity to the issue is because Anthony Bourdain was someone who did his utmost to be genuine in his encounters with people from all walks of life. He showed as much respect for shepherds who roasted pig for him in an outdoor spit as he did for five star restaurant chefs. He was just as likely to eat at a food stand as a high class eatery.

Suicide is the most uncomfortable type of death in the world today. It carries a stigma that most likely originates from the strong taboos the act of self-destruction historically had in certain religions and cultures. The forbidden status that suicide carries is probably due to the stigma that it is a form of death closely correlated with mental illness. On top of that, believers in certain religions teach that a Supreme Creator is the author of time of death because life is sacred.

For Anthony Bourdain, his decision to die was an action so personal, so private, that it surprised the entire world. Loss and grief is an emotional, completely personal reaction to an action that is so unexpected, so upsetting, that for most human beings, it shocks us to our foundations. We try so hard to not think about our eventual mortality that a suicide that is completely a surprise generates deep conflicting emotions that are not rationally resolvable. Lifelong grief remains with the people who loved and respected the individual whose suicide so deeply affected them.

I did not know Anthony Bourdain except through the wonderful work he did on CNN. I learned to trust his esteem for the unifying bond that breaking bread together offers. I learned that differences between cultures can be understood by the sharing in the universal human experience of sharing a meal. I learned that immersion into another country's culture is the only true experience that brings a glimmer of understanding how a citizen from a different part of the world lives. For all of those realizations, Mr. Bourdain, I hold your life in the highest esteem, and thank for the blessings of understanding you gave me.

Copyright 2018 by Peter Reum
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Indigenous Artists: Maria Martinez--Potter of San Ildefonso by Peter Reum

In the American Southwest, the Pueblos of New Mexico and Arizona occupy a unique position. They are in some ways ageless. The Pueblos descend from the time before Europeans, possibly before many of the other tribes of New Mexico and Arizona. The most revealing of ancient pueblo sites have been set aside as Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado's rugged southwest corner, at the Chaco Canyon National Historical Park in the northwest desert of New Mexico, and the Pecos Pueblo National Historical Park in northeastern New Mexico at the edge of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Each of these amazing Parks has been a revelation for ethnologists and archaeologists since the late 19th Century. Today's Pueblos are situated along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico and the Hopi Tribe of Northeastern Arizona. are the descendants of the people who occupied the numerous archaeological sites so many centuries ago. Maize and beans were the plants raised for food, and probably came northward from Mexico long before the Spanish colonial conquest. There were no horses to draw plows. Plowing was done with whatever worked the best in each location. Pueblo religious practices were and are complex and due to hundreds of years of Roman Catholic suppression, any priest is denied the innermost beliefs of Pueblo Culture. Clothes were functional in nature, and women were the leaders in some locations, and men in others. Pueblo life was challenging, and at times the men of different Pueblos would hunt for venison, elk, and trade for bison hides and meat with the Southern Plains Tribes.

The pueblo people were agrarian, raising squash, corn, beans and other vegetables. Fruit was not as prevalent. Pueblo hunters brought home deer, wapiti, buffalo, and smaller game. Many of the pueblos had to eat insects when water was not readily available or there was a severe drought.  The famous locations that have been preserved as National Parks and Monuments, such as Mesa Verde, Chaco Culture, Pecos Historical Park, and too many national monuments to name in this article, are available to help visitors to the Southwestern USA to comprehend the complex cultures that occupied the lands in the states of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. Trade between regions was evident in archaeological digs revealing shells from the California coast, plants domesticated for agriculture by what is now tribes that were in Mexico, and clothing from the Mound Builders of the Midwest.

The remarkable buildings and physical locations of ancient pueblo cultures exemplify the resilience and doggedness that the indigenous people composing the various pueblo cultures in surviving during plentiful years and meager years of food availability. Pottery from the pueblos was present as early as 100 AD. The ingenuity of the pots and other pieces of Anazazi (pre-Columbian) pottery show the practical side of ancient pueblo culture. To cover the various styles of different eras of Anazazi pottery is beyond the scope of this article. The interested reader will find numerous books and articles covering the subject.

The idea of Pueblo pottery being art was a late 19th and early 20th Century shift in the manner in which scholars and pottery aficionados viewed art. The Rio Grande Pueblos and Hopi tribe in Arizona had moved from their mountain homes into the valleys that provided a constant flow of water for the crops they needed to grow. The primary location was in what is now the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers in New Mexico, and the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers in Arizona. The more reliable pueblo locations facilitated more time for artistic expression.



Today's pueblos. Map by Neal Morris; copyright Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.



As may be viewed from following the progression of Pueblo Culture from Pre-Columbian times through the present day, Pueblo Culture location change inevitably moved the Anazazi from intermittent water sources into the Rio Grande Valley. The migration enabled Pueblos to maintain their locations through all of  the various powers that have politically occupied the area. These include Spanish, Mexican, and American governments. The Pueblos face new challenges at this time, such as keeping their water rights, keeping their land from being usurped, and ongoing interference with their indigenous culture.

The revival of the ancient art of making pottery was a necessary and important tool for surviving the years of drought, storing grains for freshness, and use when consuming food.  In his beautiful book entitled Maria, published by Northland Press of Flagstaff, Arizona in 1979, author Richard Spivey carefully charts the development of the most renowned of Pueblo potters, Maria Montoya Poveka Martinez. From the turn of the 19th Century into the 20th Century, until her death in 1980, Maria Martinez and her husband Julian Martinez, son-Popovi Da, and grandson-Tony Da,  pursued their pot painting craft in a manner that made Maria's pottery unique and innovative at a time in the late 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th Century when the artisanship of pottery was dying due to the convienence of cheap and mass produced pottery that even the Pueblos used instead of throwing pottery themselves in the ancient way.

By 1904, Maria and Julian had become famous enough to be asked to exhibit their work at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. The indigenous people attending that fair were supposed to dance. Maria used the opportunity to throw pottery, exhibiting her growing mastery of the ancient art. According to Richard Spivey, Maria also attended the 1914 San Diego World's Fair, the 1934 World's Fair in Chicago, and the 1939 World's Fair in San Francisco, the last one she attended. To give an idea of the prestige she held in the art world, Maria was awarded a gold medal by the University of Colorado in 1953. She was awarded The Craftsmanship Medal of the American Institute of Architects in 1954, the Palmes Academiques by the Nation of France, also in 1954, and the Jane Addams Award for Distinguished Service by Rockford College in 1959. The American Ceramic Society presented its Presidential Citation in 1967. She was presented the Symbol of Man Award by the Minnesota Museum of Fine Arts in 1969, the Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts by New Mexico State University was awarded to Maria Martinez. Awards were given by the State of New Mexico, including an award from Governor Bruce King for being an outstanding representative of New Mexico to the world.

Maria, Potter of San Ildefonso - 26 minutes

Hands of Maria Part 1-7 minutes

Hands of Maria Part 2 - 7 minutes

Colores: Pottery of Maria
and Julian Martinez - 8 minutes

Native American Pottery Making Circa
1920-1949 - 5 minutes

Maria Martinez Gathering Clay - 3 minutes

The Pottery of Maria Martinez - 7 minutes

Maria Martinez: Identifying Pottery by
Maria That is Black
 or Red
4 minutes

Pueblo and Maria Martinez Pottery: 
What to look for in What Condition 

Marvin Martinez (Maria's Great Grandson) talks 
about The Martinez Family - 7 minutes


Pot completed by Maria and Julian just prior to Julian Marinez's Death in 1940

Maria and Julian were the first innovators of Indigenous Pottery, and what followed was a major renaissance in the art throughout the various Pueblos. San Ildefonso's neighboring pueblo, Santa Clara Pueblo has produced some exceptional indigenous potters who have received great acclaim.

Related image

Maria and Julian Signature at bottom of pot they made

Maria and Julian's  Signature  at the bottom of pot they made

Upon the passing of Julian Martinez in 1943 at the relatively young age of 46, Maria Martinez faced the challenge of finding another painter of her pottery. She did not have to look very far, as her son Popovi Da was able to fill the large function that Maria's husband previously provided. Popovi brought a new form of painting to Maria's pottery, and excelled in his chosen vocation as much as Julian had previously.

Examples of Black on Black Pottery by Maria and Julian 

Popovi Da brought a significant innovation to the art of painting Maria's pottery. While keeping Julian Martinez's symbols, many of which derived from Pre-Columbian Times. Popovi Da expanded the types of Pueblo symbols shown on Maria's pottery. He expanded the colors used for decoration as well. Maria also worked with Santana, a relative of hers who has become a highly respected potter and has continued the innovations begun with Maria and Julian.  Popovi became the person who fired Maria's pottery, with her participation. Popovi Da died in 

Puebloan: Maria Martinez, Black-on-black ceramic vessel by Dr. Suzanne Newman Fricke - UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO

"Born Maria Antonia Montoya, Maria Martinez became one of the best-known Native potters of the twentieth century due to her excellence as a ceramist and her connections with a larger, predominantly non-Native audience. Though she lived at the Pueblo of San Ildefonso, about 20 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, from her birth in 1887 until her death in 1980, her work and her life had a wide reaching importance to the Native art world by reframing Native ceramics as a fine art. Before the arrival of the railroad to the area in the 1880s, pots were used in the Pueblos for food storage, cooking, and ceremonies. But with inexpensive pots appearing along the rail line, these practices were in decline. By the 1910s, Ms. Martinez found a way to continue the art by selling her pots to a non-Native audience where they were purchased as something beautiful to look at rather than as utilitarian objects."

Maria Martinez shown with physicist Enrico Fermi, c. 1948
Maria Martinez shown with physicist Enrico Fermi, c. 1948 (public domain; photo by U.S. Government employee made for U.S. Government)

John K. Hillers, San Ildefonso, New Mexico, c. 1871 - 1907, photograph, Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of American Ethnology, National Archives and Records Administration #523752

John K. Hillers, San Ildefonso (detail), New Mexico, c. 1871 - 1907, photograph, Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of American Ethnology, National Archives and Records Administration #523752
"Making ceramics in the Pueblo was considered a communal activity, where different steps in the process were often shared. The potters helped each other with the arduous tasks such as mixing the paints and polishing the slip. Ms. Martinez would form the perfectly symmetrical vessels by hand and leave the decorating to others. Throughout her career, she worked with different family members, including her husband Julian, her son Adam and his wife Santana, and her son Popovi Da. As the pots moved into a fine art market, Ms. Martinez was encouraged to sign her name on the bottom of her pots. Though this denied the communal nature of the art, she began to do so as it resulted in more money per pot. To help other potters in the Pueblo, Ms. Martinez was known to have signed the pots of others, lending her name to help the community. Helping her Pueblo was of paramount importance to Ms. Martinez. She lived as a normal Pueblo woman, avoiding self-promotion and insisting to scholars that she was just a wife and mother even as her reputation in the world burgeoned."

Maria Martinez and Julian Martinez, Black-on-black ceramic vessel, c. mid-20th century, blackware ceramic, 11 1/8 x 13 inches, Tewa, Puebloan, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico (National Museum of Women in the Arts)
Maria Martinez, Black-on-black ceramic vessel, c. 1939, blackware ceramic, 11 1/8 x 13 inches, Tewa, Puebloan, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico (National Museum of Women in the Arts)

Maria Martinez made this jar by mixing clay with volcanic ash found on her pueblo and building up the basic form with coils of clay that she scraped and smoothed with a gourd tool. Once the jar had dried and hardened, she polished its surface with a small stone. Her husband Julian then painted on the design with liquid clay, producing a matte surface that contrasts with the high polished areas. During the firing process, the oxygen supply was cut off, producing carbon smoke that turned the jar black.

Martinez’s works exemplify a collaborative approach to art. She learned how to make pottery from female family members, worked alongside her sisters (who often painted designs on her earliest pieces of pottery), and subsequently trained three generations of her family in the art form. Martinez and her husband, painter Julian Martinez, developed their distinctive black-on-black designs around 1918. Julian rendered birds and serpents or stylized geometric forms that complement the robust forms of his wife’s pottery. Despite achieving great pro 

"Maria Martinez eschewed the Western notion of the isolated artistic genius, stating: “I just thank God because [my work is] not only for me; it’s for all the people. I said to my God, the Great Spirit, Mother Earth gave me this luck. So I’m not going to keep it." (Commentary by Maria Martinez, Courtesy National Museum of Women in the Arts)

"Maria and Julian Martinez pioneered a style of applying a matte-black design over polished-black. Similar to the pot pictured here, the design was based on pottery sherds found on an Ancestral Pueblo dig site dating to the twelfth to seventeenth centuries at what is now known as Bandelier National Monument. The Martinezes worked at the site, with Julian helping the archaeologists at the dig and Maria helping at the campsite. Julian Martinez spent time drawing and painting the designs found on the walls and on the sherds of pottery into his notebooks, designs he later recreated on pots. In the 1910s, Maria and Julian worked together to recreate the black-on-black ware they found at the dig, experimenting with clay from different areas and using different firing techniques. Taking a cue from Santa Clara pots, they discovered that smothering the fire with powdered manure removed the oxygen while retaining the heat and resulted in a pot that was blackened. This resulted in a pot that was less hard and not entirely watertight, which worked for the new market that prized decorative use over utilitarian value. The areas that were burnished had a shiny black surface and the areas painted with guaco were matte designs based on natural phenomenon, such as rain clouds, bird feathers, rows of planted corn, and the flow of rivers."

Maria Martinez, Black-on-black ceramic vessel (detail), c. 1939, blackware ceramic, 11 1/8 x 13 inches, Tewa, Puebloan, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico (National Museum of Women in the Arts)
Maria Martinez, Black-on-black ceramic vessel (detail), c. 1939, blackware ceramic, 11 1/8 x 13 inches, Tewa, Puebloan, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico (National Museum of Women in the Arts)
"The olla pictured above features two design bands, one across the widest part of the pot and the other around the neck. The elements inside are abstract but suggest a bird in flight with rain clouds above, perhaps a prayer for rain that could be flown up to the sky. These designs are exaggerated due to the low rounded shapes of the pot, which are bulbous around the shoulder then narrow at the top. The shape, color, and designs fit the contemporary Art Deco movement, which was popular between the two World Wars and emphasized bold, geometric forms and colors. With its dramatic shape and the high polish of surface, this pot exemplifies Maria Martinez’s skill in transforming a utilitarian object into a fine art.The work of Maria Martinez marks an important point in the long history of Pueblo pottery. Ceramics from the Southwest trace a connection from the Ancestral Pueblo to the modern Pueblo eras. Given the absence of written records, tracing the changes in the shapes, materials, and designs on the long-lasting sherds found across the area allow scholars to see connections and innovations. Maria Martinez brought the distinctive Pueblo style into a wider context, allowing Native and non-Native audiences to appreciate the art form."