Although Mario Martinez has lived in San Francisco for nearly ten years, he has maintained a strong connection to the Arizona desert and to his Yaqui heritage through the color and composition of his work. There is a dynamic movement and feeling of density in many of his paintings which bring forth the essence of Yaqui ceremonialism. Earth Stick ( 1990), for example, focuses some elements of the Yaqui Easter celebration on the sword used in dancing during Holy Week, the end of the ceremonial year.
Although other works have different references, they also show an underlay of traditional Yaqui imagery with Martinez' characteristic colors. Bleeding Earth ( 1990) suggests an ecological nightmare, while the structure of the 1986 Desert reminds the viewer of Gauguin's French landscapes. Still other pieces seek a political dialogue, as For Nelson Mandela ( 1990) shows. Although he is not a political activist and prefers to let his paintings and works on paper carry his ideas, Martinez is involved in curatorial work that gains exposure for artists of color. But in what could be called a political act in America in the 1990s, Martinez has dedicated To My Lavender Siblings ( 1991) to other members of the Yaqui community who are homosexual. This work, mixed media and acrylic on paper, embeds a