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Juan Sanchez

American, Born 1954

Cielo/Tierra/Esperanza 1991
Master printer - Kevin Garber
Photolithograph from five plates with collagraph from two masonite plates
Handmade Paper
58"h x 43"w
Ed. 16
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Juan Sanchez was among the first artists to come to St. Louis after Lloyd Menard, whose 1989 visit to the Washington University Collaborative Printmaking Workshop changed the way the shop functioned.(1) Joan Hall met Sanchez at a presentation that he made at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1987 and subsequently invited him to make prints in St. Louis. Sanchez, who was well known on a national scale and had just won a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1988, had never made a print of the size suggested by Hall and Marcus.

Like Menard before him, Sanchez worked in the shop for a week, assisted by Kevin Garber, Joan Hall and an entire team of students. He produced Cielo/Tierra/Esperanza (Heaven/Earth/Hope), a mixed media print on handmade paper measuring 44" x 60". Since there was not yet a space at WUCPW dedicated to papermaking, paper for the project was purchased locally. Hall then used a pulp sprayer to pigment the top sheet and encouraged Sanchez to use drawing pulps. This was the first time that Sanchez had worked with any type of handmade paper, and it was also the first time that Hall had encouraged a contract printmaker to use it at WUCPW. The experience was so positive that Sanchez began working with handmade papers whenever the opportunity presented itself.

The top half of Cielo/Tierra/Esperanza includes a photo-lithograph of two Puerto Rican girls set against depictions of Taino Indian petroglyphs and hearts.(2) The hearts are sacred hearts that refer to the Catholic Church. The lower half of the print contains an upside-down rendition of the American Bald Eagle that has been crossed out, as well as skulls and Spanish text which reads, "Marcharan nuestras fuerzas dirigidas para poner en pie nuestraos afanes y coronar de asombro nuestras vidas." The translation is, "Our directed strength will set in motion our aspirations and crown with astonishment our life," quoted from Juan Antonio Corretjer (1908-1985), Puerto Rico’s national poet and patriot. The entire piece was overprinted with a large collagraph plate.

Sanchez’s work is most often political and refers to his Puerto Rican heritage. According to Sanchez, his intention is to "raise a level of consciousness, and to serve a function of self-empowerment so that people could go out and change the things that are repressing and oppressing them." (3) Set within symbols of their past, the small girls in Cielo/Tierra/Esperanza represent a future of hope and a realization that advancement and reform is possible.

The week that Sanchez spent in St. Louis was significant for both the artist and the shop. It was exhilarating for Sanchez to make a print on this large a scale. He later wrote to Hall and Garber, "You all have converted me into some type of ‘born again giant print maker.’" (4) Sanchez was also impressed by the vitality of the shop, intensified by the energy of the students.(5) He remarked that working with them was "almost like performing surgery," as they were right there to assist in any way possible. Likewise, Sanchez found that he was "able to achieve on a more ambitious level than he had expected because of them." Kevin Garber would later comment on Sanchez’s work a WUCPW, "you can see in that print the energy that came from the different personalities." (6) The attitude fostered by Garber and Hall that anything was possible produced an "open and free" environment that, Sanchez felt, made the prints he produced in St. Louis unique.(7) Cielo/Tierra/ Esperanza "quickly became the standard by which all subsequent editions were measured," remarked Maryanne Ellison Simmons who became the press’ master printer in 1996.(8) With the contribution of Joan Hall’s vitality and foresight, the environment of intense experimentation on a large scale that Peter Marcus had envisioned in the 1970s was finally being realized in the 1990s.

Marilyn Kushner
Curator and Chair of the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
Brooklyn Museum of Art
1 Island Press was originally known as the Washington University Collaborative Printmaking Workshop until the name was changed in 1996. Sanchez would return to make prints in St. Louis again in 1997. He has subsequently printed with Maryanne Simmons at Wildwood Press where he has made four editions.
2 The Taino Indians inhabited Puerto Rico when Christopher Columbus sailed to America. They had disappeared by the end of the sixteenth century.
3 Susan Canning, "Interview: Juan Sanchez," Art Papers 14 (July-August, 1990), p. 30.
4 Letter from Juan Sanchez to Joan Hall and Kevin Garber, June 18, 1990. Island Press, Washington University’s School of Art Collaborative Print Workshop Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.
5 Juan Sanchez to the author, December 16, 2001. Unless otherwise indicated, subsequent comments were also made in this same conversation with the author.
6 Interview with Kevin J. Garber, student interviewees, 3 April 2000.
7 This impression was substantiated even further when he returned to St. Louis again in 1997 to print with master printer Maryanne Ellison Simmons. (Simmons was among the graduate students who had worked on Sanchez’s 1990 print.)
8 Maryanne Simmons quoted in "Sanchez Show Celebrates Island Press Collaboration," Press Release, 2000. Island Press, Washington University’s School of Art Collaborative Print Workshop Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.