Lourdes Sanchez

Anything that I’ve done career-wise, all of it, is stuff that I had no idea you could do for a living when I was in high school. I went to a Catholic high school in suburban New Jersey in the 1970s and it was not an arts-oriented school. I´d say it was geared for producing workers in middle management. Prior to that, I had grown up in Queens, but we moved to New Jersey, which we called the country.  The art teacher was a former nun and she was very angry. She favored the girl who sat next to me because she was sort of a goody two-shoes. She would do everything neatly, she would do it on time.  Assignments were often grayscales and still lives. I didn’t think that was art, but that’s what was offered. 

Assignments were grayscales and still lives and things like that. I didn't think that was art, but that's what was offered.

High school was the worst time of my life, and I got out of there like a rocket. It was the classic thing that happens to some girls at that age, where you go from being resilient and having many interests to being totally depressed. I don’t even know how I graduated. Towards the end I was barely even going. When I was younger I had a role as the artist in my class in grade school– you make the posters, you get the gold seals in little contests, etc.  People have always wanted me to draw things for them. I believe in archetypes and that we all embody certain things, and that was part of my loss of confidence in high school: I lost that role. I wasn't that great at making perfect tidy gray scales.

My outlet became fashion. I was frequently in trouble for how I dressed – I would get demerits because you weren’t allowed to wear certain things.  it would appear as if I was headed for juvie because of all the demerits, but it was all just dress code violations or being late.  I would look at pictures of Studio 54 in Interview magazine or Vogue, and I wanted to emulate these great things I was seeing. I wanted to look like somebody who had gone to Morocco for the weekend. 

I also started painting in watercolor. I did that more at home, though. The nice thing about watercolor painting is that it’s very available. It doesn’t take a lot of room, and you could just get a little set at the supermarket even, and paint. 

 In my last year of high school I briefly had a controversial older boyfriend.  He had a degree in English , and he wrote for a small rock magazine, so he would get press passes to go to concerts. That began my experience of knowing that there’s another world where I may be accepted, and it felt like a different life was possible. I started to perk up. But also because of that I was cutting classes and was getting in trouble.  I did take the SAT, though, and to the surprise of everyone in my school, I actually got one of the highest English scores in my class, because I read so much all the time, and I’m bilingual. I was able to get accepted to college on the basis of my SAT score. Also, I was working at every part time job I could get, and saving money for my New Jersey escape plan.

I enrolled at West Georgia College, in Carrollton, Georgia, because an aunt and uncle who had long been kind to me and had recently relocated there invited me to come with them. Since I didn't know what else to do, I went.  ( I had even responded earlier to an army recruiter, that's how clueless I was!)  I signed up for painting and Bruce Bobick, who taught it, was the chairman of the art department. He was a watercolor painter, so that’s what he taught – that was his medium. I made one best friend and we would paint in the studio – I basically had a studio that I could use all the time, because except for when they were giving classes there was nobody there. So I got to have the experience of having a studio practice where you could paint most days. you look back on your life and say, how did these random lucky things happen? I did that for two years but eventually had to come back to NY. It was like, I can't stay here, but I got enough of what I needed.

You look back on your life and say, how did these random lucky things happen? 

 Often I have felt badly about not having more direction earlier in life towards an art career,  and felt like I was pretty behind the eight ball. Like to think that even if one doesn't have that,  you can thrive anyway.   I did grow up in a home were things were constantly being made, and an Old World level of quality was the norm, so it was a great education in that way. My parents thought I was talented, if they had a spare moment to think about it at all, but they also used to say, “art is for rich people, not for you.” That was their mantra. There are times that rings in your head, and you think that that’s true, as there too often is a socio-economic class divide when it comes to the arts. It is daunting, and it can stop you in your tracks. That and not having the contacts that going to certain schools or being from a well connected background can bring.  I did textile design for many years before coming back to being a painter. I had thought that in order to get a gallery you had to be really good at networking (I´m not) and had to have gone to the right schools (I didn't) because that’s what I saw. And I had no idea that this could happen – what’s happening to me now. Even in the stable of the artists that my gallery represents, I don't think there is anyone from a trajectory like mine, and it can be a lonely feeling at times. Still, I am happy and amazed, mostly.

There's no roadmap. People say things like follow your joy, follow your bliss, which is kind of nauseating because even the things you love doing and are right for you to do, they don’t always feel blissful all the time. But the things that you’re truly drawn to,  there may be a great audience for it one day. You think there’s not, because you don’t have proof, but there are things that are coming that you haven’t seen yet. 

Lourdes Sanchez is a Cuban-born New York painter whose primary mediums are watercolor and ink, which she uses to explore compositions that are equal parts geometric and organic.  She is interested in both embracing and transcending a history of prettiness in the watercolor tradition, and sees it as a metaphor for the desire to align with loveliness often sought by or imposed upon the feminine, while giving a glimpse of the complex subtext beneath.

 However some of her work is simply an unbridled love affair with the natural world, and a fascination with the geometric and molecular structure which is the underpinning of organic life.

 Her work is represented by the Sears Peyton gallery in NYC and L.A. and she currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and Merida, Yucatan.