Mario Martinez was born in Phoenix, Arizona and grew up in Penjamo, a small Yaqui Indian village in Scottsdale. He received his BFA degree at The School of Art at Arizona State University, Tempe in 1979 and an MFA degree from The San Francisco Art Institute in 1985. Martinez has exhibited nationally and internationally. He has been represented by Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco, Jan Cicero Gallery in Chicago, and Artfit Gallery in Phoenix, among several other galleries in the Southwest. Martinez's work has been featured in traveling group exhibitions including The Submuloc Show: Columbus Wohs 1992 Art Train.
In 2005 Martinez had a retrospective exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. The exhibition was part of New Tribe: New York, a series of four retrospective exhibitions featuring New York-based Native artists in 2005 and 2006. In 2007 his work was included in Native Voices: Contemporary Indigenous Art in Brooklyn. Also in 2007 Martinez created a lithograph print as part of the Art in Embassies, a collaborative project between the US State Department and the National Museum of the American Indian.