Marketing Maria: Creating the Legacy

IARC Seminar

March 25–29, 2007

The San Ildefonso potter Maria Martinez became the embodiment of a larger tradition and cultural trend both within and outside her culture, through the efforts of many self-identified ethnographers and social scientists who marketed her and her artistry from 1904 through the 1950s and even later. Ignoring her entrepreneurial spirit and exceptional talent, “Maria’s ‘curators’ presented her as an effective and historically accurate model of how Pueblo women of the period should be perceived,” said IARC director Kathy Whitaker, who organized the short seminar “Marketing Maria” and an accompanying public forum. “Was she created as a curio for the curious? Did she become a human object displayed for the purpose of museum promotion by Edgar Lee Hewett, Kenneth Chapman, and others?” A group of six scholars and artists, including Barbara Gonzales and Cavan Gonzales—both descendants of Martinez’s and potters themselves—investigated her objectification as a “tool and model” for social, political, and economic recognition by Native and non-Native interests. They discussed why Martinez rose above the image of “featured museum display,” how the politics of culture were involved in the creation of her public identity, and the political and social ramifications of Martinez’s unusual celebrity for her culture, family, and promoters.

Kathy Whitaker, Facilitator Director, Indian Arts Research Center, SAR
Bruce Bernstein Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Anthropology
Erika Bsumek Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Texas, Austin
Catherine Cocks Co-Editor, SAR Press
Barbara Gonzales San Ildefonso
Cavan Gonzales San Ildefonso
Nancy J. Parezo American Indian Studies, University of Arizona
Kathy Sanchez San Ildefonso

Follow us: