Appreciation of Tony Da's (1940 - 2008) contribution to the realms of both pottery and painting requires acknowledgement of his lineage. With Marie and Julian Martinez as grandparents who, in tandem with one another, changed the appearance of San Ildefonso pottery traditions; and Tony's father, Popovi Da, who introduced inset stones in his pottery and a sienna coloration --- typically with black or red surfaces. The risks his father took in double-firing (required to achieve a two-tone coloration) may have inspired Da to take risks all the same (no pressure!) ...
In 1967 the “Three Generations” exhibition took place in Washington, DC showcasing the work of Maria Martinez, her son Popovi Da and Tony Da.
A perfectionist as well as an innovator, Tony Da would not hesitate to destroy anything that fell short of his high standards. Dyslexic, his visual acuity was clearly unharmed. Initially he worked with pen and ink (and some watercolors), shifting to casein (a water-based paint combined with milk) and then finally acrylic paint on both board and canvas.
Mimbres designs remained a feature of both his two and three dimensional artistic output during the last two decades of Da’s life. Abstraction became another aspect of the artist’s production. One of the most striking Tony Da paintings (located in the James Bialac collection) embraces Da’s sophisticated use of abstraction in a painting employing overlapping geometric kachina-inspired faces. While this painting influenced two decades of painters who came after this composition dated 1964, Tony credited his first introduction to “the realm of abstraction through a one-man show by Sioux artist Oscar Howe in Santa Fe”.