Painter. Nephew of Crescencio Martinez, Awa Tsireh received a brief formal education in his home village, San Ildefonso Pueblo, New Mexico. He was inspired to paint by his uncle, whom he soon surpassed in graphic skills. About 1917 Awa Tsireh was commissioned by Edgar L. Hewett to make paintings of Indian ceremonies. This brought him into daily contact at the School of American Research with Indian painters Fred Kabotie (Hopi) and Ma-Pe-Wi (Zia) and artist William P. Henderson, who occupied studios there. By the thirties, after his work had appeared in major exhibitions of Indian art in Chicago and New York, Awa Tsireh enjoyed a national reputation. With India ink and a brilliant, distinctive palette, he produced decorative paintings of great precision. His style developed from a naive realism, used to depict genre and dance scenes, through more abstract phases featuring landscape "props" and stylized animal forms. Awa Tsireh had a profound influence on the work of many other artists, who were inspired by his wide range of subject matter, delicacy of draftmanship, color variations, and preservation of indigenous design elements.
Boyd. Popular Arts of Spanish New Mexico, pp. 374–75.
Wroth. Christian Images in Hispanic New Mexico, pp. 115–22.
Charles Eldredge, Julie Schimmel, and William H. Truettner Art in New Mexico, 1900–1945: Paths to Taos and Santa Fe (Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1986)