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 Marta Sanchez  (1959 - )

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Texas      Known for: Chicano figure, retablo, trains

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is submitted by the artist, January 2004.

Marta Sanchez was born in San Antonio, Texas.  She studied at Texas Women
University and transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a BFA in Painting.  She received her MFA in Painting from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, studying in Rome, Italy and Philadelphia PA.

Sanchez has been an artist and art activist participating in numerous exhibition boards.  She is the grassroots co-founder of "Cascarones Por La Vida", which raises funds once a year to assist families with AIDS/HIV.  This organization is in it's 11th year and has raised over $24,000.00.  She now has a Cascarones Fund through the Philadelphia Foundation, which assists area youth affected by AIDS in the Philadelphia area with an art scholarship.

Her work is a part of the Cheech Marin collection and featured in his traveling exhibit "Chicano Visions: American Artist on the Verge".  She has created public and private commission pieces for the City of Philadelphia and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, John, and toddler son Phillip Ignacio, and paints and teaches at various campuses including The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Temple University and Springside School.

Her work has been published in the recent "Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art by Bilingual Press (University of Arizona) and Running Press publications of Mothers, Quotable Women and recent Latino Wit and Wisdom.

My focus as a painter is to create narratives.  Much of my work is oil and enamel painted on metal due to my attraction to the Mexican retablos paintings, which are created on tin.  While my early retablos sprang from my admiration for the small paintings, my works are now a vehicle to keep my cultural and ritual upbringing alive, combining my cultural past with my present.  As a Mexican-American Chicana artist, I consider it important to not only embrace my culture but also to share it with the community.

Simultaneously while painting retablos, I started working on a train yard series. The train yards were apart of my childhood since my parent's house was right across from one.  For an exhibit I wanted to created a new body of work and wanted to bridge the ideas of my past imagery of La Danza and other past retablos with that of my train yards---a transitional point of my personal interior and exterior. I also wanted it to be light spontaneous and clear, to give the viewer a sense of where I have been and where I want to go, and to examine and document for others who were too young to remember.

With the collaborative efforts of poet Norma E. Cantu, I am currently working on a seria box set of 8 prints about the train yards.  Dr.Cantu's poetry is woven throughout my imagery as one, depicting the Mexican experience through those who worked there, performed there (Carpas) and lived there.  I am happy to have the opportunity to creating this box set at Coronado Studios, here in Austin,Texas.  I hope that all will continue to follow my visual journey.

Transcendental train yards; and other stories of the heart

My earlier work embraced the Mexican Retablo as an art form.  My attraction was their sense of purpose, which filled a need for the masses.  A narrative prayer that was art in function to illustrate hopes, dreams, and miraculous events for the public and spiritual eyes to see.  After many years of incorporating this format to my work I decided to work on the urban landscape of San Antonio, Texas, my hometown.

This landscape had a rhythm that would rattle the ground and whistle in the day and even more in the still of the night.  The various light and seasonal memories of this landscape is what I would sketch early on as a child on my parents porch.  I decided to make it a visual backdrop and foundation to my early narratives.  Backdrops with the essence similar to the early Golden Age of Old Mexican Films of the 1950's, like a surrealistic films by Luis Bunuel.  And even the later pumped up colors of the Mexican cinema in "Technicolor". These films sparked my interested in literature and poetry, especially contemporary Latin American writers and Chicano writers.  The Chicano movement created a fertile ground for art of all disciplines.  To create and at times compare the approaches towards describing the Mexican/Chicano experience continues to inspire me.

I met Chicana writer Dr. Norma E. Cantu in New York while listening to a lecture by a friend and later read her book Canicula.  I like the rhythm of book and felt attuned to her writing, I invited her to collaborate on this train yard series not knowing where it would lead us.  We had a common bond with the train yard. While my experience was mainly it's familiar landscape, her grandfather worked on the same train yard.  Dr. Cantu adds not only poetic text she also adds insight to the historical events of the Mexican experience with the train yards including the history of women and men living in empty train cars and working in the yards. Other Chicano writers, historians and anthropologist have lead me to the vaudeville circus shows called Carpas,that traveled through Mexico and Texas. I would like to thank Peter Haney, Tomas Ybarra Frausto, and Antonia Castaneda for all their assistance in the history of the Mexican migration and other experiences through the train yards.

My vision is pictorial, light hitting stones,wooden ties laying like tired sun-beaten bodies waiting for the spiritual skies to lift them up with a cool breeze.

On a more personal level I can't help but see it as a beginning and end of all things. It's a spiraling cycle of life or balance of experiences.

While I have warm feeling knowing that I was born at my parents home facing the rustling trains, I also think of all the times my father would walk up and down the sun bleached street for exercise.  He later died in the night at home, probably listening to the same sounds go by, because the sounds are constant sometimes loud other time a murmur.

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