Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Native California Painter: M. DeNeale Morgan

Mary DeNeale Morgan
Springtime Carmel Valley
Oil on Masonite
8 x 10 inches
          During the research process for both this blog and my dissertation, I discovered that most of the female artists working in the West during the nineteenth century were from Europe, Asia, and the Eastern/Midwestern United States. With the exception of Native Americans, few women were born and remained in western America before that time. When travel and tourism became increasingly popular during the nineteenth century, women also explored the regions around them despite the constraints of societal expectations of proper behavior and dress.

          As previously discussed, in the 1800s, the numbers of practicing women artists increased dramatically, as educational and exhibition opportunities available to them widened considerably, and notable female artists were awarded public commissions and prizes. But, success for the female artist often came at significant personal cost: reconciling the traditional and expected role of wife and mother with the demands of being a professional artist. [1]

          Opportunities for study varied widely in the East versus the West. Established art schools, art colonies, and art groups in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, existed before those in Portland, San Francisco, Carmel, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and Laguna. The discussion of art in California, in particular, must address the differences between the Northern and Southern regions of the state, because each area is distinct geographically, climatically, and culturally. Although the north and south have no legal borders, for the purposes of this blog Southern California refers to the lower third of the state, with its primary boundaries from south to north being: the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara, (each founded during the Spanish period) Palm Springs, the Mojave desert, and the southern Sierra Mountains. Northern California encompasses the region beyond Santa Barbara including San Luis Obispo, the Monterey peninsula, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, and the northern Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Mary DeNeal Morgan
Path to Town
10 1/2 x 7 1/4 inches
Southern California is climatically different from the north, with a much more temperate climate and mostly sunny days, which attracted health seekers, winter tourists, artists, and those seeking to “reinvent” themselves. According to Henry Hopkins, museum director, curator, and educator, the colors most representative of the painters in the southern area of the state are white, blue, and yellow, and the art in general is “clean, intellectually clear, high-colored, light filled.” [2] The natural setting of San Francisco encompasses the bay, green and gold hills, forested ridges and foggy coastline. The colors used in general by the artists reflect the climate in richer, more saturated colors of silver, gray, and green. In both areas, according to Hopkins, the paintings have always expressed the ambiance of light. [3] As the fashion in landscape painting moved away from large Romantic panoramas of dramatic scenery, smaller canvases of intimate pastoral themes became popular, themes of which included inland farms and towns that celebrated the taming of the land.

Mary DeNeale Morgan was a pastelist, a painter, and an etcher. She was born in San Francisco, California on May 24, 1868, grew up in Oakland, and studied for a number of years at the California School of Design (1884-92 and 1895). While she was a student there, DeNeale studied under well known artist/instructors of the day such as Emil Carlsen, Amedee Joullin, and Arthur F. Mathews. She studied informally with William Kieth from her youth until his death in 1911, and later, in 1914, she spent some informal time with William Merritt Chase in Carmel. [4] 1894 Morgan exhibited her work in that year’s California State Fair. In 1895 she began exhibiting with the San Francisco Art Association and again saw her work hung in the state fair. [5] DeNeale opened her own art studio in Oakland in 1896 and a second in Carmel in 1904 following a visit to the art colony the year before. DeNeale survived the 1906 earthquake that devastated much of San Francisco and did a series of pastel studies of the devastation there.
Mary DeNeale Morgan
Ruins of St. Patrick's Church
Mission Street near Third

Mary DeNeale Morgan
Ruins of Townhome
California and Taylor Street
Nob Hill

Mary DeNeale Morgan
Ruins 1906 San Francisco
 Earthquake and Fire

In 1910, DeNeale made Carmel her permanent home and became an integral part of the colony and its arts organizations first, as an art instructor, then as director of the Carmel Summer School of Art, from 1917 to 1925. In 1927, she was a founder of the Carmel Art Association. DeNeale was honored in 1928 as Scribner's Magazine named her as one of the nation's foremost women artists. During World War Two she made weekly visits to nearby Fort Ord to sketch the servicemen.

Mary DeNeale Morgan
Two Cypresses
Oil on Masonite
22 by 28 inches

DeNeale created an enormous body of work in oil, pastel, tempera, and watercolor in which she captured the beauty and architecture of the Monterey peninsula including the iconic cypress trees, dunes, old adobe structures, and seascapes. An accomplished artist and instructor, she was a member and exhibitor in the following organizations: National Ass'n of Women Painters & Sculptors; San Francisco Art Ass'n; California Watercolor Society; Laguna Beach Art Ass'n; American Federation of Artists; Carmel Art Ass'n; Carmel Arts & Crafts Club. Exhibited: Oakland Industrial Expo, 1896; Mark Hopkins Institute, 1897-98; Hahn Gallery (Oakland), 1907 (solo); Del Monte Art Gallery, 1907-12, 1934 (solo); Berkeley Art Ass'n, 1908; Alaska-Yukon Exposition (Seattle), 1909; Panama Pacific International Exposition, 1915 (silver medal); Hotel Oakland, 1925 (solo); Pasadena Art Institute, 1929 (solo); Carmel Art Ass'n, 1934 (solo). Works held: California Historical Society; Monterrey Peninsula Museum; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Del Monte Hotel; University of Texas; Stanford University; University of Southern California; Union High School (Monterey); Monterey City Hall and Presidio; Sunset School (Carmel); Salinas High School; Harrison Library (Carmel); Society of California Pioneers. [6]

At eighty years old, Mary DeNeale died in her beloved Carmel on October 10, 1948, with an unfinished canvas on her easel. 

1. Noble, Nancy. History of Women Artists in the United States: 19th Century to the 1960s. Resource Library, New Britain Museum of American Art, January 13, 2011.
2. Harry Hopkins, Fifty West Coast Artists: A Critical Selection of Painters and Sculptors Working in California (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1981), 10.
3. Ibid., 10, 12.
4. Kovinick, Phil and Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick. An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), 226.
5. Morseburg, Jeffery. The Windswept Beauty of Mary DeNeale Morgan. (Accessed December 29, 2012). 
6. Hughes, Edan Milton. Mary DeNeale Morgan 1868-1948. (Acessed December 29, 2012).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hinook-Mah'iwi-Kalina'ka - Angel DeCora

ART has been part of the landscape of the Americas for thousands of years. The Southwestern portion of what is now the United States, along with the Mesoamerican and Andean regions, was inhabited by great civilizations preceded only by the cultures of China and the ancient Middle East.[1] Hundreds of indigenous nations with distinct languages and cultures existed as sophisticated and urban communities. All were influenced by the art created by women. More than just pottery, traditional artwork included weaving, jewelry making, bead and quill work, and painting.

Tracking the Buffalo
Hide Painting depicting the Hunt [2]
The first paintings done by Native Americans were petroglyphs and pictographs, images that are either carved into or painted on rocks, in caves, and on the faces of cliffs. The figures are typically of people, animals, the hunt, and spiritual beings. In Midwest and western America, hide painting is a traditional Plains Indian artistic practice of painting on either tanned or raw animal hides. Women painted geometric designs on tanned robes and rawhide parfleches (small rawhide bags) which sometimes served as maps, Tipis, tipi liners, shields, robes, clothing, drums, and containers for holding food, water, and clothing are appropriate surfaces. Just as families do today, the Native Americans decorated their spaces for comfort and beauty.
Until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, artwork was unsigned and therefore largely unidentified as to the specific creator. Instead, the artwork was ascribed to a tribe or to a particular region. Native American painting was, and in some respects, still is, endowed with a variety of ritual and social purposes. When the settlers immigrated and drove the Native Americans from their lands, over a relatively short period of time, the way of life for the Indians completely changed. Native American painting traditions survived, but evolved into new art forms such as illustration and painting on canvas.

Native American culture, is separated into five main culture districts or zones, which allows for clearer interpretation of the works of art and culture. Those districts are the East, the Plains, the Southwest and Northwest coast, and the Arctic. Forms of Native American art differ considerably within the zones due to the climate, various traditions among different groups of natives, natural environment, social order, different religious beliefs, and available materials with which to work. With the arrival of the railroad in the West during the eighteenth century, imported materials became more widely available, so those pigments were adopted along with preferred colors that also varied by region. Painting still continues in traditional form with a variety of objects and surfaces decorated: ceramic vessels and figurines, masks, sculpture and carvings (such as kachina dolls; shields, ritual equipment, musical instruments, hide and woven clothing, the human body, sacred chambers, and cliffs and rocks).[3]

May 3, 1871 to February 6, 1919
Hinook-Mah'iwi-Kalina'ka, or as she is commonly known, Angel DeCora, is of the Ho-Chunk nation and was raised on the Winnebago reservation in Nebraska. She spent time in both the East and the West throughout her life. Her Indian name means alternatively "Fleecy Cloud Floating in Place" or "Woman Coming on the Clouds in Glory" and roughly translates into the English "Angel."[4] Throughout her career she generally signed her art work with her English name, Angel DeCora. DeCora became the most influential Native American artist of the early 20th century. Hinook-Mah'iwi-Kalina'ka was a painter, an illustrator, a teacher, and a proponent of Native American rights.

DeCora's family was one of means-her grandfather was a respected chief of the Winnebago, and on good terms with the whites and white settlers; her mother was a La Mere, another important family in the tribe. Julia St. Cyr, an older Winnebago acting as agent for the Hampton Institute in Virginia, convinced DeCora's parents to send her to school there. At 12 years of age, she was taken from the reservation to one of the era’s most well-known Indian boarding schools, where, like many other Indian children, she faced not only separation from family but the systematic indoctrination of racist policy meant to assimilate the Indians into mainstream American society.

DeCora remained at Hampton for the required five years. She was sent back to the reservation where she found the old way of life had largely disappeared and, at sixteen years old, could not cope with the dual loss of her father and grandfather. She returned to the East to complete her education and then attended Burnham Classical School for Girls in Northampton, Massachusetts between 1891-1892. After graduation, she spent four years at Smith College (1892-1896) also located in Northampton, where she excelled in art. Dwight Tryon (1849-1925) was a well-known American landscape painter and art professor at Smith, who had a profound influence on DeCora's art. Her tendency to silhouette figures of people or buildings on a horizontal picture plane with a darkened foreground and a softly lighted background may be a technique learned from Tryon. She likely also gained a broad knowledge of art history from him since his philosophy was that "theory and practice should go hand in hand."[5] DeCora studied illustration at the Drexel institute in Philadelphia, the Cowles Art School, and finally at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [6] 

DeCora painting in Howard Pyle's Franklin Stree Studio
Wilmington, DE, ca. 1898
 DeCora was a successful illustrator in both Boston and New York. In 1906, she became head of the newly established Department of Native Indian Art at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. There, she stressed Native American themes to her students and, in 1908, married one of them, William "Lone Star" Dietz, an artist and a star athlete. [7]  Her husband was offered a coaching position in the Pacific Northwest and DeCora joined him in Pullman, Washington, where they lived until their divorce in 1918, whereupon she relocated back to Northampton.  
The Middle Five: Indian Boys at School
Francis Le Flesche
DeCora devoted most of her time to illustration. In 1897 she illustrated Longfellow's poem Hiawatha for an eastern publisher. In 1899, she wrote and illustrated two stories for Harper's New Monthly Magazine and in later years provided artwork for Le Flesche's The Middle Five: Indian Boys at School, Judd's Wigwam Stories Told by North American Indians, Zitkala-Sa's Old Indian Legends, and, with her husband, Eastman's Yellow Star. [8] 

DeCora did a limited number of paintings, the most significant were created during a summer at the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Portraits included Old Bull, Standing Bear, and other important figures from Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa tribes as well as landscape paintings.

Much of her illustrative was done in a painterly style, not particularly different from that of other artist-illustrators of her day, and there was nothing distinctly "Indian" about her body of work. [8] DeCora's use of color was realistic and her images were somewhat stereotypic rather than specific in terms of color or dress related to distinctive tribes. Some of her work appeared to be a romantic interpretation of Indian life before the white man's influence on Indian life.

Illustration: Old Indian Legends
Angel DeCora
ca. 1901
Back at the Indian education unit at Carlisle, after working in Philadelphia, and then Boston, DeCora became a spokeswoman for the preservation of Indian culture as a teacher of Indian students, exposure to different reservations, and through membership in the Society of American Indians. DeCora retained her connection to her heritage and used her natural ability as a teacher and a leader to share her people’s culture and experience in a modern context. She defied common stereotypes about Indians (and about women) and became an advocate for the field of Native American art. A complex woman, she defied a public eager to categorize Indians into two classes: the backward, recalcitrant outsiders who needed to be assimilated into white society, or the romanticized “children of nature,” stereotype of the noble savage. [9]

DeCora was at the center of the first major government-supported effort to save Indian arts and crafts. An examination of DeCora's work, which occurred at the intersection of art, modernity, ethnic identity, and colonized people can provide insights into the ways in which those elements affected artists during the early years of the twentieth century .


1. The Art Institute of Chicago, Art Access: Indian Art of the Americas. (Accessed 12/19/2012).
2. Smithsonian Natural Museum of American History, Tracking the Buffalo: Stories from a Buffalo Hide Painting. (Accessed 12/21/2012).
3. Native American Painters and Painting. (Accessed 12/20/2012).
4. McAnulty, Sarah. Angel DeCora: American Artist and Educator, Resource Library, online publication of Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Nebraska State Historical Society, 2003.
5. Ibid.
6. Yoshiki-Kovinick, Marian and Kovinick, Phil. An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West (Austin, Texas: the Univeristy of Texas Press, 1998). 70-71.
7. Jessica Crabtree, Native American Portraits and Wildlife. Angel de Cora. (Accessed 12/20/2012).
8. Kovinick, An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West.
9. McAnulty, Angel DeCora, 2003.

Further Reading
Hutchinson, Elizabeth. "Modern Native American Art: Angel DeCora's Transcultural Aesthetics." Art Bulletin. Vol. 83, 4. Dec. 2001: 740-756.
Gere, Anne-Ruggles. "An Art of Survivance: Angel DeCora at Carlisle." The American Indian Quarterly.
Volume 28, Number 3&4, Summer/Fall 2004. 649-684.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Stories in Fabric

          Quilting, weaving, and pottery, have long been considered "women's crafts," as if those contributions made by female artists are not credible nor as worthy as the art created by men. This attitude has prevailed for centuries due to factors such as women's rights (or the lack thereof), societal dictums with regard to how women could study art and the human figure, and religious rules. Long-standing prejudice and widely accepted stereotypes have largely relegated female artists to women's crafts or as carriers of culture in the form of art collectors and promoters of the art of men. In reality, women have always assumed active, continuous, and influential roles in art and sculpture along with men but have largely been left out of historical documentation. It's somewhat better now, but in my quest to see the art of the women I chose to profile in my thesis, Dr. Sara Kennel, Associate Curator with the Department of Photographs at the National Gallery of Art, and Ms. Amy Johnston, Curator of Modern Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. regretfully informed me that the majority of artwork by women is archived, that is, only on view during special exhibitions.
Pentz Baltimore Album
Quilt top, family and friends of Julia Ann Pentz
ca. 1847
         Before we investigate the role the quilt played in the West, we must briefly examine the emergence of the medium. Quilting has a lengthy history. Believed to have originated as far back as in Ancient Egypt and China, quilts, and their use, have evolved over time. At its inception, quilting appears to have been used primarily for clothing as several layers were stitched together: the top, batting for warmth in between, and the backing. Fabric is delicate, and as few items survived over thousands of years, historians have turned to sculpture, paintings, and literature, to understand the role played by quilted fabric and quilts, themselves. It is likely that quilting was brought to Europe during the Crusades, a series of holy wars fought between CE 1095 and 1291. Examples in art portray Muslim soldiers in tightly quilted clothing as part of their armor which was soon adopted by medieval European soldiers. There are, however, early panels such as the Tristan quilt, a bed cover created in Sicily and archived in The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Tristan Quilt
Made in Sicily, Italy
Linen quilted, padded with cotton wadding
with outlines in brown and white linen thread
           The quilt, as we know it in Colonial America, was strictly a utilitarian item used as bedspreads or hangings constructed of fabric that covered doors and windows to help insulate early homes. It was not, at that time, an artistic endeavor. Quilting took a back seat to weaving and sewing but, reluctant to discard anything that could be re-purposed, leftover fabric was used to patch blankets or woven coverlets that were commonly in use. Scraps of fabric began to be cut into patterns that fit into a larger design and patchwork quilting was born. In addition, apart from practical use, Colonial women made hand-pieced quilts that featured fine needlework and designs.

          The Amish, German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and in the Midwest, are revered for their beautiful and elaborate quilts, however, they did not initially quilt when they settled in America, but continued the tradition of using feather beds and coverlets that were popular at home- few quilts were created in the Amish communities before the 1870s. As quilting became accepted, changes in how they were made occurred slowly and strictly with community approval. This resulted in a great deal of variety from community to community as each had its own set of guidelines as to how things should be done. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania Amish preferred a somber color palate, while certain brighter hues were embraced elsewhere.

Graveyard Quilt
ca. 1836
          A superb example of narrative in quiltmaking is the Graveyard Quilt. In 1836, Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell began stitching a quilt in memory of her two-year old son, John, who had just died. Later, in 1843, she added the name of another son who had died at the age of 19. Not only did it feature a graveyard in the center, the location of the cemetery is identified as Monroe County, Ohio. [1] The quilt is both a genealogical and historical artifact.

           In the West, quilting traditions were brought by women relocating from the eastern United States. There were no quilting customs among the Spanish-Mexican settlers along the Rio Grande until the coming of the railroad in 1880 when mail delivery along with Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues began to arrive. As in the East, enterprising women used leftover scraps to provide a faster and easier way to create covers for beds than spinning or weaving blankets.  The coming of the railroad accelerated immigration bringing quiltmaking traditions along with them and the Southwest became an extension of the eastern United States, a safe place to bring families and settle down.

          Although the demands of frontier life as well as cultural norms, limited opportunities for artistic expression by many women, scholars have discovered that the important contributions of women in the West did not go entirely undocumented. Aside from diaries and journals, Western women also recorded their daily lives in their quilts. On the westward trail or in frontier settlements, quilts were a means of both physical and emotional comfort. Quilts lined and covered wagons, padded china, or became window covers or even primitive shelters such as tents. Quilts were even used in the place of coffins. A diary written in 1849 records the bodies of a mother and infant wrapped together in a bed comforter and wound with a few yards of string that we made by tying together torn strips of a cotton dress shirt.[2]

          Many women on the frontier made quilts to pass the time. The weather was a challenge on the plains and out west, homesteads were far apart so women didn't have regular access to town or to each other. The relative isolation of the women also made the idea of the "quilting bee" attractive.  The quilting bee offered women a chance to socialize. At a quilting bee women from the area would bring quilt tops that were already pieced and work together to quilt the top. Often a quilting bee would be a full day affair with lunch served to the women who came to help and dinner for all the families. Sometimes there would be a dance in the evening. One of the happier functions of the quilting bee was to help provide young women with quilts for their hope chests. [4]
Detail Crazy Quilt
Silk and silk velvet
Initialed and dated 1890

          Not much is known about the earliest quilt patterns. References to quilts can be found in a few old diaries kept by women quilt makers, but there is rarely mention of what the quilts looked like. The first pattern ever printed in a periodical was the Honeycomb or Hexagon pattern, printed in "Godey's Lady's Book" in 1835. Initially, these early printed patterns had names that described the quilt's shape (i.e., "honeycomb"). The 1880s saw the beginning of regular publication of quilt patterns in women's magazines. As quilt patterns were merchandised, more and more were sold with names attached. In addition, the magazines would also invite readers to send in their own quilt patterns. By 1890, mail-order catalogs included quilt patterns. A woman could not only order fabric from Sears or Montgomery Ward, but for a dime, could choose from hundreds of patterns. Over time, quilting styles, fabrics and patterns have varied, in some cases, out of necessity. During the Great Depression, the use of feedsacks were popular.
          The apex of the Victorian Crazy quilting style was 1885, however, these quilts were made from approximately 1880 until the late 1890s in both the East and Western United States. Any Crazy quilt dated prior to 1879, would most likely indicate a particular period in the family’s history. During the height of the Victorian era, homes could not have enough embellishment and women decorated every available space on the floors, walls, and furniture. The culture of the time was full of symbolism, poetry and romance. Crazy quilting allowed women to display their artistic abilities in needlework, oil painting, and arrangement of embellishments. Silks, silk velvets and chenille, and threads of every hue were used to incorporate names, dates, pictures, and a wide assortment of symbols. [4] 
          According to Dorothy Zopf in the excellent book Women Artists of the American West, we can read a quilt like a book. From a distance it is the colors that attract us...Up close we begin to see the individual shapes, or "words" of the piecing. [5] With thousands of stitches in every quilt, the creation is a labor...but one of commitment and love.

Next post: Art before the Immigrants: Native American Painters
1. Lipsett, Linda Otto. Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell's Graveyard Quilt: An American Pioneer Saga (Dayton, Ohio: Halstead and Meadows, 1996). 
2. Cross, Mary. Treasures in the Trunk: Quilts of the Oregon Trail (Nashville, Tenn.: Rutledge Hill Press, 1993).
3. Betsey Telford-Goodwin's Rocky Mountain Quilts. Victorian Crazy Quilts, (Accessed 12/17/2012).
4. Johnson, Julie, Emporia State University, History of Quilting. (Accessed 12/18/2012).
5. Ressler, Susan R., ed. Women Artists of the American West (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003).

Further Reading
America's Quilting History, Pioneer Quilts: A Comfort Through Hardship. (accessed December 12/12/2012). Quilting in America: A History of Quilts, An American Folk Art. (accessed 12/13/2012).
Americana's Quilting History: Quilting Through Colonia Times through the Twentieth Century (accessed 12/14/2012).
Patches from the Past: Scraps of Fabric, Sewing, and Quilting History. The Myth of Colonia Quilting in America, 1620-1780. (accessed 12/17/2012).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

All About Maria

Maria Martinez
San Ildefonso Pueblo
          As I searched for female artists to select for my doctoral thesis, I wanted to include women of color with varied backgrounds. In addition, I was looking for artists that used similar media so I could compare their work, opportunities, and success, during the early years of the twentieth century. I chose two painters, two sculptor/potters, and two photographers: three from the East and three from the West. I discovered an artist who I believed was an obscure Native American potter from a pueblo in New Mexico. That woman turned out to be Maria Martinez, who, unbeknownst to me, was an internationally known artist whose work continues to be collectable and increasingly more valuable since her death.

María Antonia Montoya, the second eldest of five daughters, was born on an unrecorded date between the years 1881 and 1887. For nearly one hundred years, until her death in 1980, Martinez lived modestly on the pueblo, eager to greet visitors and share her craft. The family was supported by her father, Thomas Montoya, who worked variously as a farmer, a carpenter, and a cowboy. Martinez was given the Tewa, or pueblo name Po’ve’ka, or "Pond Lily."[1] 

Her fascination with pottery-making began when she was a young girl, as she would watch her aunt making pots for cooking, food storage, mixing bread dough, and for bathing. When asked how she learned the art of pottery making, Martinez was quick to respond, "I watched my aunt, Nicolasa, my mother’s sister who had married my father’s brother, so we are all in the family…Nicolasa…and my grandmother—they didn’t teach, nobody teaches pottery…But in 1932, much later, someone took me to the government Indian school in Santa Fe and told me to teach. I said no, I come and I work, and they can watch."[2]

          This manner of observation/instruction was—and is—part of the structure of each day. The isolation and the slower pace of pueblo life that still exists permits time for direct learning by imitation, from verbal directions, and through observation. Indian daily life is organized so that it sets up sequences of repetitions that become frameworks for a subtle educative process.[3] Life on the pueblo remains much the same as it has always been. There are no street names, most of the roads are still unpaved, and the houses are not numbered. Bread continues to bake in outdoor adobe kiva ovens and costumes worn for ancient rituals and religious ceremonies are painstakingly hand-sewn, for each event.

Maria and Julian
ca. 1931
 As Martinez came of age and decided to marry, her family was not particularly enthusiastic about her relationship with Julian. A painter, Julian possessed a craft, but did not have any skills with which to provide for a wife and family. In a break from tradition, the marriage was not arranged by either of their parents, but by the couple themselves. Martinez was a man caught between two worlds. His inability, or lack of interest, in farming as his ancestors had in the past, resulted in his being viewed as marginal, by those on the pueblo. To compensate, Martinez regularly performed a variety of tasks that included chopping wood for the San Ildefonso School, and janitorial work at the Museum of New Mexico, which later proved to be an important connection and turning point in their lives.

          For a woman born and raised on a small pueblo in New Mexico, Maria travelled extensively during the early years of her marriage. The couple spent their first months together as part of the Indian Exhibit at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. At that point, Maria spoke only Tewa, and allowed her husband to communicate with the public since it was “the man’s place to talk to outsiders anyway.”[4] As potters, the couple was creating the traditional polychrome ware, with Maria as the potter, and Julian as the decorator. They refined their pottery techniques and were asked to demonstrate their craft at several additional important expositions, including the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, the 1914 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego, and the 1934 Chicago World's Fair. At the 1939-1940 San Francisco Golden Gate Exposition, the couple spent their time on Yerba Buena Island, in a large pueblo built by archeologist/anthropologist Edgar Hewett of the Museum of New Mexico. There, the couple met “that Geronimo,” the fierce Apache. Maria observed, “He was already old, a big man. We talked in Spanish because we didn’t know each others’ Indian.”[5]

          Maria and Julian left the pueblo while he worked under Hewett (founder and first director of the Museum of New Mexico), as one of the natives hired to assist with an excavation at the Pajarito Plateau in 1907. Hewett discovered that Maria was an excellent potter and requested that she and Julian try to replicate the technique he unearthed on shards of pottery not typically found in the Southwest. The pieces were jet and charcoal in color, some highly polished.

Martinez was confident that she possessed the ability to replicate the shapes of the pottery from the shards, but she had no knowledge of how to duplicate the deep black finish of the clay. The couple experimented with a variety of techniques, but the early pots fired in about 1910, were not traditional San Ildefonso pottery and they felt the quality of the initial pieces was not satisfactory.During this early phase of experimentation, Maria and Julian stored the wares. However, when Hewett brought a group from the museum to see the pots, they were effusive in their appreciation of the beauty and sheen of the black wares. The couple was encouraged to continue their work.

Maria and Julian Martinez
Black on Black Jar with Feather Motif
ca. Early 20th century
As early as 1920, Maria and Julian began to receive requests for more work than they could produce with quality so, they enlisted members of their family to help meet the demand. Maria was concerned that their financial success would result in tension and resentment within the pueblo among those who did not share in the wealth. She requested permission from Julian to teach the black ware technique to anyone in the village who wished to learn. Martinez also supported and encouraged the other women of the pueblo to create and sell their own pots. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her constant inspiration and sharing of her knowledge and ability helped to keep the art alive and thriving. Martinez was also willing to share beyond her pueblo, with other potters, as she traveled. “I’m lucky! People take me all around. I go to so many places, a long time. I travel many years.”[7]

Collected, displayed, and available for purchase, most of the wares created by Martinez over a period of seventy years or more were sold as soon as they were fashioned. Even during the 1930s, when pots went for as little as two dollars per item, they were sold quickly, because the family needed the small profit each pot would bring. “I used to make big, big pots for $1.00 or $1.75,” she said.[8] Maria claimed to have made hundreds of large pots but they seem to have disappeared into private collections. Sadly, upon reflection, Maria admitted that it never occurred to them to keep any of the pieces, or to pass them down to their children.

Martinez was well into her nineties when died, on July 20, 1980, at the same pueblo where she was born and spent her most of her life. At the time of her death, pottery production was the primary and single most important source of income for many of the pueblos of the Rio Grande. Maria’s children, Popovi Da, and John Martinez (d. 1966) learned from Maria and continued to carry on her work, while grandchildren Kathy Sanchez, Johnny Cruz, Barbara Gonzalez, and Martin Martinez carry on the black ware pottery tradition of their late great-grandmother.[9] Martinez dedicated her life to the pueblo and to her people, with a vision of purpose. Martinez was quoted by Richard Spivey in his book María as saying "My Mother Earth gave me this luck. So I'm not going to keep it. I take care of our people."[10]

Monochrome, Polychrome, and Black on Black Pottery Group
Maria Martinez, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico

1. Peterson, The Living Tradition of Maria Martinez, 83.
2. Ibid., 82.
3. Ibid., 82.
4. Marriott, Maria: The Potter of San Ildefonso, 119. 
5. Peterson, The Living Tradition of Maria Martinez, 109.
6. Marriott, Maria: The Potter of San Ildefonso, 202.
7. Ibid., 94.
8. Ibid., 79.
9. Good (accessed June 24, 2011).
10. Liz Sonneborn, A to Z of American Indian Women, 2nd. ed. (New York: Facts on File, Inc., 2007), 150.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Uplifters, Preservationists, and Maria Martinez

With the wealth of opportunities in every field today, it's difficult to identify with women's quest for meaningful work during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For the first time in history, women could attend university with the goal of a career that did not include housekeeping and raising children. Bear in mind however, those females who were able to take advantage of the increasingly relaxed societal rules were largely white, finacially well off and/or supported by their families. Perhaps these new opportunities for success can both explain and forgive the misguided hubris exhibited as they explored new career prospects. 
Preservationists Mabel Dodge Luhan, Frieda Lawrence, Dorothy Brett
at Mrs. Lawrence's porch, near Taos, probably 1938
Photograph by Cady Wells
           As white women carved out careers for themselves after higher education, many graduates pursued the new fields of sociology and anthropology—careers not tied to any male moral authority. At least two distinct groups of those women took part in the Indian arts and crafts movement, and, although a few men played key roles, it was largely a women’s adventure. Women also comprised large numbers of two main organizations concerned with pueblo Indian art—the Indian Arts Fund (IAF) and the Arts and Crafts Committee of the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs (NMAIA).[1] The organizations were contentious at times. The NMAIA—the anti-modernists—chaired by Margaret McKittrick, favored the preservation of pueblo culture and art and sought to revive” high-quality” and “traditional” Indian art, as a means of insulating the pueblos from modern America.[2] The IAF sought the pueblo’s assimilation into modern American society, which would “uplift” the Indians out of their supposed backward and degraded state.

Because much of the Indian Arts and Crafts movement focused on pottery, primarily a pueblo Indian woman’s craft, it also involved higher numbers of Indian women than of men.[3] White women transformed Indian women artists into powerful symbols of their competing notions of women’s roles in modern America. Influenced by newly developed theories of cultural relativism, and disillusioned by modern American society, the preservationists lauded the Pueblo Indians as a model society and campaigned to defend Pueblo lands and dances. The Indian Arts and Crafts movement became the means to preserve the preservationist’s image of the ideal Pueblo Indian—a deeply spiritual, traditional artist, who sacrificed his or her individual interests for the good of the community and who lived in harmony with nature.[4] 
Mary Hunter Austin
ca. 1900
Charles Fletcher Loomis
Preservationists such as McKittrick, Mary Austin [5] and Mabel Dodge Luhan [6] tied their work into a new vision of womanhood that emphasized women’s self-fulfillment and individualism. The preservationists also tended to believe that pueblo women enjoyed high social status with the notion of “Mother-rule”, which explained the seemingly harmonious communalism of the pueblos. “Perhaps the most stabilizing fact of the Pueblo Constitution is its retention of the matriarchal formula for its social pattern,” contended Austin. “Peace and stability, these are the first fruits of Mother-rule.”[7] Austin and Dodge firmly held that women in the pueblos held the ultimate authority.

Mabel Dodge Luhan
Carmel, ca. March 1930
Edward Weston
Weston Collection.
          Those involved with the NMAIA were at nearly opposite terms. Many of those participants had served in the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) as schoolteachers and field matrons. Those women aligned themselves with the federal government’s policy of assimilation through education, suppression of native religion, and individual allotment of communally held Indian lands.[8] The arts and crafts production, in their eyes, could serve to uplift Indians to civilization, rather than to preserve them in their “backward” state. These “uplifters,” or as they would be known in the East—Progressives, believed that transforming Indian homes into “Christian” homes was the first step in the assimilation process. The ideal home, modeled on the uplifter’s idea of the “Christian home”, should cultivate “order and purity” and an “atmosphere of uprightness and goodness.” [9] While it's unknown whether women were guided to teach specific arts dictated by the New Mexico Association on Indian Affairs or had the freedom to research the true crafts of the pueblo artists, it is likely that they taught what they knew. Clara True, a former schoolteacher and long-time reformer attempted to “uplift” Pueblo girls through “reviving” Indian embroidery, a craft never pursued by pueblo women.[10]

In a report for BIA Home Economics teachers, the author explained that, “for place cards, greeting and announcement cards, lamp shades, bedspreads, pillows, book covers, and in countless other ways, the Indian designs may be used to give pleasure to…girls and their friends and to…make a contribution to the cultural life of the Indian child.” [11] What a ridiculous notion. Unfortunately, the uplifter’s participation in the Indian arts and crafts movement proved that they were less concerned with reviving traditional and authentic craft, as they were with giving the Indians a viable means of “bettering” themselves. This vision of Indian arts and crafts differed vastly from the preservationists’ view, which regarded the making of these non-native items as “atrocities.”

Elizabeth DeHuff [12] recounted the perfect example of  an incident that demonstrates Indian women’s overt conformity, but covert defiance of white women’s promotion of arts and crafts. One summer, a young white woman who had studied ceramics in the east came to live in a Pueblo village. She intended to teach Pueblo women how to make pots that would hold water without seepage. All summer long, she gathered together the potters of the pueblo and taught them how to glaze their pots. According to DeHuff, “the Indian women watched, followed instructions, and made the glazed pottery.” When the young ceramic artist left at the end of the summer, she congratulated herself on her “successful philanthropy.” But the Indian women—one and all—walked to the edge of the mesa and, with a cluck of disgust, hurled all of the glazed pots they had made over the precipice, breaking them into bits.”[13] While outwardly seeming to accommodate the white woman, Indian women deeply resented the white woman’s assumptions that she knew better than they, how to make pots. The following conversation between Julian, Martinez, and Martinez’s father reveals that they manipulated the preservationists’ desires for authenticity. Maria told Julian she wanted to make some “new kind of bowls.” He replied, “You mean the old kind.” Maria’s father quipped, “The new old kind.” Maria concluded, “The kind the white people want.”[14]

Maria Martinez
with pottery adapted for new tastes
By the time Maria Martinez was born, sometime during the 1880s, San Ildefonso, like many other pueblos, was suffering from severe economic depression. As Native American crafts were “rediscovered” at the beginning of the twentieth century, the wares became popular with collectors. San Ildefonso benefited greatly from the trend because, although the Pueblo population was small, there were a number of skilled artisans, makers of pottery, and painters, who set to work to improve the dire economic condition of the pueblo.  During the early twentieth century, when the black pots were revived (as will be discussed) due primarily to the work of Martinez and her husband Julian, the fortunes of the pueblo began to improve dramatically.

The continuity of pottery styles was punctuated by changes that resulted from experiments in decorative techniques and pottery-building methods. Yet, few changes were as significant as those introduced with the arrival of the railroad, and the cash economy that accompanied it. New bowls and jars, not historically made, evolved into shapes that would appeal to the white purchasers. These forms included bowls of a variety of shapes, tall vases designed to serve as holders of flowers or lamp bases, other shapes such as cigarette boxes and ashtrays. [15] Born during this time of change, Martinez was able to draw on traditions of the past, with an understanding of the demands of the present.

Next post: All about Maria

 1. Susan R Ressler, ed. Women Artists of the American West. Jacobs Margaret D. Shaping a New Way: White Women and the Movement to Promote Pueblo Indian Arts and Crafts, 1900-1935 (North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2003), 83.
  2. Brody, Indian Painters; and Molly Mullin, “the Patronage of Difference: Making Indian Art ‘Art, not Ethnologym’” Cultural Anthropology 7 (1992): 395-424. Anti-Modernists opposed modernization, not modernism—an intellectual movement that developed in the first decades of the 20th century rather than modernization: the industrialization, bureaucratization and rationalization of American Society.
  3 . See “Named Artists on Indian Arts Fund Collection Pottery,” IAF Potters folder, Indian Arts Fund papers, Indian Arts and Research Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Of those men listed, most painted designs on their wives’ pottery.
  4.  Margaret Jacobs, Engendered Encounters: Feminism and Pueblo Cultures, 1879-1934. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999); Richard Frost, “The Romantic Inflation of Pueblo Culture,” The American West 17, no. 1 (Jan/Feb 1980), 5-9, 56-7.
5.  J. Wilkes Berry, Mary Hunter Austin (1868-1934), American Literary Realism, 1870-1910
Vol. 2, No. 2 (University of Illinois Press, Summer, 1969), 125-131. Austin was a novelist, poet, critic, and playwright, as well as an early
feminist and defender of Native American and Spanish-American rights.
 6. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, (accessed June 28, 2011). Luhan was a wealthy American writer, social activist, and patron of the arts. She is particularly associated with the Taos art community which included Georgia O’Keefe and Willa Cather.
 7.  Mary Austin, Taos Pueblo, photographs by Ansel Easton Adams (San Francisco: Grabhorn Press, 1930), no page numbers.
 8. For good overviews of federal assimilation policy see Frederick Hoxie, A Final Promise: The Campaign to Assimilate the Indians, 1880-1920. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) and several works by Francis, Paul Prucha, American Indian Policy in Crisis: Christian Reformers and the Indian, 1865-1900 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976); The Churches and the Indian Schools, 1888-1912 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979) and The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians, vol. 2 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984).
  9.  Josephine Richards, “The Training of the Indian Girl as the Uplifter of the Home,” Proceedings and Addresses, National Education Association, vol. 39 (1900), 704.
  10. Clara True to Mrs. Markoe, Board of Indian Rights Association (IRA) papers, microfilm edition (Glen Rock NJ: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1975), Reel 41.
  11. “The Use of Indian Designs in the Government Schools,” U.S. Office of Indian Affairs Report, n.d. [ca. 1930], Chapman papers, Archives of the Laboratory of Anthropology/Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
12. Yale University, Beinbeke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Elizabeth Willis DeHuff Collection of American Indian Art, (accessed December 9, 2011). A teacher at Barnard College in New York, DeHuff relocated to Santa Fe with her husband and taught painting. She encouraged the Native Americans to paint images from their heritage which caused an uproar. Critics alleged she encouraged paganism by allowing the young artists to paint traditional stories and tribal religious customs.
13. Elizabeth DeHuff, “Pueblo Episodes,” unpublished ms., n.d., Box 6, Folder 48, DeHuff Family papers.
14. Alice Marriott, Maria : The Potter of San Ildefonso (Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press; Norman, Oklahoma, 1976), 167.

15. Bunzel, The Pueblo Potter, 44.