Lourdes Sanchez is a New York painter whose primary mediums are watercolor and ink.
As told to Nona Caspers, on the occasion of the solo show, Entonces, at the Sears Peyton Gallery in Chelsea, N.Y. May 3 2015
One way to tell my story is that I was born in Havana, Cuba in the early spring of of 1961, and by Indian summer, was sleeping in a drawer pulled out from a dresser in a motel room in Miami. This sleeping arrangement was short lived, as my families´ flight north continued to Flushing, Queens.
We eventually settled into a small brick building in Woodside inhabited entirely by extended family, and where the English speaking world was kept largely at arms length, until the time came for me to go to school, at which point my Spanish and extreme shyness in the world outside of the brick building won me a corner on a far side of the kindergarten classroom where I was given jars of paint, paper, brushes and solitude. I barely recall speaking to another child, but I got to have a daily studio practice, in which to learn the things that paint can do on a page.
The rest of my school days were not so fruitful. Bullies, dyslexia, a massive overbite, loneliness and awful winged hairstyles. I eventually quit caring and managed to just barely graduate high school with a small pool of savings from part time jobs. I had no idea what to do.
An aunt and uncle, who had no children of their own and had always shown me much generosity, recently left N.Y. for Carrollton, Ga. They suggested I come down and enroll at West Georgia College. This I did, and was fortunate enough to sign up for a painting class with the artist Bruce Bobick, a gifted educator who for many years was the chairman of the art department . Mr. Bobick taught mostly watercolor. I eventually rented a room a few blocks from the school. Thanks to a generally apathetic student art community, the art studios were almost always empty, and I could use them evenings and weekends. I sometimes lived on orange block cheese and oatmeal, yet in many ways, it was an idyllic time. But it took some years to know it.
I could not stay in a small southern town indefinitely. Within 2 years, I moved to Jersey City N.J., because thats were I was able to find an apartment I could just about pay for , and also had space to have a small studio room. I took the Path train to a string of lowly jobs in Manhattan, and I was asking myself, what could I do, the only thing I was good at was painting. I thought maybe I could paint for print designs, and I wouldn’t have to do the horrible jobs anymore. I took a night class on textile design at the School of Visual Arts, put a portfolio together, and began designing prints for fashion companies, eventually going out on my own. I was a ghost artist. Prints I created where everywhere, but no one knew who painted them.
The world changed around me. One day, art and design blogs were a thing. People put my work on their blogs, Pinterest, Tumbler, etc. I didn’t really know who they were, or how they found me. At first I was very appreciative, then much of it was horrifying – the relentlessly perky tones of some of the blogs, my work getting knocked off, or worse, used downright without permission or $. However, the internet allowed me to fulfill a dream to live the winter months in a tropical climate. My partner, the brilliant Russell Busch and I bought a half colonial/half midcentury house in Merida, Mexico, in a mixed use neighborhood, that we turned into a work/ live compound. I have been working there for the past four years for half the year. The space-a big beautiful space-made it so I could do larger paintings, and more of them. It also made room in my head to imagine focusing just on fine art. I also started to integrate the Spanish speaking part of myself on my own terms.
Merida was built on the site of the Mayan city Tho- and its very calm. It sits on a limestone rock bed famously believed to have been created by an asteroid crashing into the Caribbean 67 million years ago. In the wee hours, I can’t help but think about the big kaboom.
© Lourdes Sánchez