Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Life in Art

My Life in Art
Jonathan Sanchez
Created for ARE 6049

Looking back now, I would say the pivotal moment for me was receiving a sketch pad at about the age of seven. I still have it every page was filled over a summer living with my grandparents. Residing in a little retirement community near Ocala Florida (not the end of the world but you can see it from there) I heard daily about the Great Depression and the Second World War as if they happened a few weeks ago. The pace of life in a retirement community (at about the speed of smell) left a young boy chomping at the bit. My folks going through a divorce and my brother and I dumped on my grandparents doorstep, I discovered through this simple sketch pad I could make the world go away or make entirely new ones. If I would not have had that combustible mixture of mind numbing boredom and confusing gut churning pain, I would have become someone else for certain, but more than that I would never have had found solace and a deep profound connection to art.
The power of art to transform, heal, and transport can only be understood by those that have felt those effects, and of course can’t be overstated. In my own life art has been a constant source of entertainment yes, but dare I say a spiritual or at least meditative and therapeutic quelle.
Earliest Art Exposure
My earliest memories of art in school were marred by needing glasses which my father refused to purchase. A border line dyslexia, acute inability to see straight lines, constituted a learning disability that went un-diagnosed until college. Falling further behind in classes and truly being unable to see well or oft mixing 51 with 15 crippled me in school and again I sought solace in art. Frustration and as one elementary teacher described me, “you have absolutely no sense of color,” led me to believe I would never be able to master art of any kind. Perhaps it was this criticism that fired me, but more it was I think that in my sketch pad, on my time there were no wrong answers or bad art, if it was in my pad it belong there. Thinking back to the humiliation and negative comments I received as a child it is amazing I did not grow up to hate art or want nothing to do with it.
In junior high things began to change my best friend and I would spend a Friday night drawing, copying comic books, things from Star Wars books, geeky sci-fi stuff of any kind, we both challenged each other critique each other and grew as artists. Soon I might be inspired by comic book but I began to create my own stories and characters, my best friend never did and is a commercial artist today.
An aunt I hardly knew gave me a paint by numbers kit of a horse and barn. Something I have never forgotten and think is maybe the second most important moment in my art journey. I could not see remember, the tiny little numbers and shapes seemed to vibrate right off the cardboard canvas making me uneasy. I flipped the thing over and painted a castle, a field billowing clouds, my own fantasy creation. I look back at this as a tiny but irreversible act of rebellion.
Surprisingly my stepmother also loved to draw and paint and supported my efforts. One Christmas I received a tackle box for paints and brushes (which I still use), a cliche little wooden palette and easel. Moving on to painting I again felt that strange sense of being lost in art of forgetting everything being entranced by a painting. The new relationship provided many positive things but also a Southern extreme Fundamentalist Baptist oppression. I learned about censorship and intolerance during those teenage years.
Music was paired with painting but carefully my brother and I hid our records and knew we could not bring certain records home for fear of being caught with them. I had a tiny walkman style radio (which I also had to keep secret for fear of confiscation or worse being made to listen to religious music) it became my sanctuary in a crowded little house in central Florida. Through the re-marriage I was suddenly one of six kids. My poor grades and slow reading ability led to increased depression over school. The divorce left me shattered as a little boy something I learned of only as an adult. The whole while I won prizes for art at the Florida State Fair, sold pieces to friends, and landed works in school literature magazines. So began this duality that so many of us know of being a failure in one world and a rock star in another.
Things got worse at home and I spent some time as a runaway. During that time I could spend hours drawing if I wanted to painting when I could afford it. People wanted my artwork to hang it up, and display it, it seemed too easy in a way though I was putting in enormous amounts of time.
Formal Training and Studies
Reconciling things at home I somehow made it to a community art college in Tampa Florida. I took general classes not sure I would keep it up or could afford it. Nearly quitting to take some dead end job get an apartment who knows what, I took a drawing course as an elective. After the first critique I was pulled aside by Steve Holms my professor at the time. He sat with me I figured I had done something wrong was in trouble for something. He asked to see the other drawings in my pad from the class. Looking them over he asked, “Do you want to study art?” “Do you have enough money for school?” I was taken aback I wanted to study music (tried actually but again I can’t read quickly and memorized music pieces by ear this worked for while until my first theory test) and no I didn’t have any money. It didn’t occur to me at the time to spend loan money on a degree that might actually lead to a job, I hadn’t really expected to make it through more than a few semesters. I was given a full ride at the school money for any and all art classes that I wanted to take and a little for supplies (too little it turned out).
I took every class that I could and even a few that were created for me. The final project was a series of bronze pours with another mentor and hero of mine Jerry Meatyard (yes brother of Ralph Eugene). Jerry and Steve possessed an energy and reverence for art and art history that has stayed with me decades later.
The Vagabond Days
After a brief attempt at the University of South Florida, I traveled a bit in England, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and France and moved to Colorado. I was pulled into the working world and grew to love all things culinary, learning to be a cook of serious skill and knowledge. At every turn I was called, “Professor Jonathan and Doctor so and so,” my time in college worlds away from the ex-con, wife beater, alcoholic and drug abusive, world of hotels and restaurants. Everyone from the general manager on down seemed to say, “you don’t belong here.” Everyone seemed to think I should be teaching, that I was a natural professor.
A Couple of Degrees
I continued to paint exhibit art anywhere I could, and after a show at a winery in Colorado returned to college. The University of Colorado had a leper colony of ramshackle buildings beyond the farthest reaches of the university, on the other side of a coyote filled butte, dedicated to studio art. The late Jerry Riggs ran the campus gallery and the late Louis Ciccotello ran the fine art program. There were amazing minds in the art history department and dedicated Chicago University of Art studio instructors. I thrived in the penniless environment earning a BS in Fine Art Studies. Exhibiting in Denver and eventually Santa Fe I continued to sell and show works.
While completing my last two semesters I found a work study job at the Colorado Springs city museum beginning my museum resume. During this time I visited Thailand, Korea and Cambodia and my worldview shifted radically. Hired on after finishing the degree I found myself a museum worker general. Working with for the first time Native American ethnographic and archaeological collections I decided to take an archaeological field school near Mesa Verde. At the Colorado Springs museum I had my first educational experience presenting a program for kids on archaeology I had created based on my experiences in the field and focused on Four Corners region archaeology.
Hired on by the museum of New Mexico I began working as an archaeologist in Santa Fe. Returning to Colorado I completed a second BS in Physical Anthropology, and continued to take contract archaeology and museum jobs.
Through the museum experience I learned of conservation and restoration and thought I might study it. Moving to Florence Italy for a year I took part in a gruelling program of art history, museum studies, and practical art restoration. Learning to stabilize and restore canvas paintings, frescoes, gilded works, and works of wood, mixed with numerous cathedral and museum visits, it was an outrageous jewel in my over all art education. How many painful moments of faded worn slides had I endured through the years versus, “today class we will talk about Michelangelo lets go see the David.”
I married my Swiss girlfriend of several years in Switzerland and returned to the states with her.
At the Western Museum of Mining and Industry I joined the museum’s education department. Creating, presenting and researching museum programs was exciting and fulfilling. I found my ability as an artist being used for the first time in a professional setting. I finally decided I could be an educator.
Five Years as an Artist
My wife found life in America frustrating and suffered from some homesickness. We moved to eastern Switzerland where I began to exhibit art and work for two art museums in the region. The experience of handling Rodin, Giacometti, and Arp was earth shattering, and I couldn’t help but feel the culmination of a long and winding road of art experience. I created educational materials for both museums some of which are still in use a decade later.
My art resume grew by leaps in bounds while in Switzerland. My wife and I founded a production company which we named Sanchez Art Werk. With business, cards, a website, brochures, calendars and posters, we went into the business of art. Eventual showing art in four different countries, through something like fifty exhibits I produced and sold more art in five years then I had in the total thirty that proceeded.
I added numerous countries to my list of places visited made extensive trips into Italy, Germany, France, and Austria. But also further afield into the Czech Republic, Belgium, Serbia, Croatia, Colombia, Macedonia, England, Greece, and Slovenia.
The MIM Years
Again returning to the states I began work again as a field archaeologist. I took what was to be a six to nine month contract for intense museum work at the forming Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix. The retired Target founder was moving into a new role as philanthropist and throwing together a museum, museum collection, and museum staff as a new museum building was being built. I entered this mad cauldron and joined the rush to open a museum. While working with the collection primarily in the early days the education department was still forming. I presented the idea of creating a museum program on the blues and was thrown into the mix immediately. Museum Encounters are in house live presentations part lecture, part hands on and part performance in nature. My program was a hit with the founder of the museum himself, and I was promoted to the three hundred seat house theater where I continue to present my program.Museum EcounterSlides and mojo

Recent Events
Briefly my wife and I had a gallery in Scottsdale, I did a show in Tampa (at my old college in honor of some of the mentors mentioned above) and another in Denver, have created numerous short films and two CDs but the pace of art production has come to slow stroll. Having worked for several education departments I decided to pursue a degree in education, and have spent about a year in a mostly online program through the University of Florida.
My most recent art endeavor is the Artificial Curiosities show at the Vault Gallery on the downtown ASU campus in Phoenix. After years of international and Swiss shows the exhibit is the first to feature my wife and I together.
We continue to run our production company, study, show, and produce art and music, here in Phoenix our home of three years.
Jonathan Sanchez 2014
Created for an art education course it is as always way way over the Tweet size word limit (my most frustrating challenge in any of the grad courses) so it is presented here in its entirety and will be mangled and drastically shortened for the demands of the course. I have had a ridiculous life in art to limit that to 800 words is equally ridiculous.

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