An Unforgotten Past: The Work of Nicolas V. Sanchez

Nicholas V. Sanchez (MFA 2013, Fellow 2014) is driven by a prolific compulsion to bear witness to everything he holds dear. In paintings that depict blind horses, decaying walls and scabrous surfaces, Sanchez suggests a world that is not only falling apart but one that is also slipping through his fingers.  By painting memories that could easily fade into oblivion, Sanchez creates an illusion, first for himself and then for the viewer, of their continuity which satisfies his quest to preserve his family's heritage.

In Nicolas' newest body of work created specifically for the "2014 Fellows" exhibition opening at the Academy on September 3rd from 6-8pm, Nicolas reveals some of his most intimate paintings yet.  On the eve of the show's opening, we caught up with him to discuss his Fellowship year, learn about his inspirations and what's next for this artist-on-the-rise. 

Q: What are the major themes you pursue in your work and can you tell me about your work from the "2014 Fellows" show?
A: Family, heritage, tradition, preservation, identity, space, and preservation are themes I tend to explore in my work.  For the 2014 Fellows show, my work continues to center around the idea of inheritance through family, specifically through my family's history. Linking different worlds by means of family photos, rural animals, and painting methods, a new identity is simultaneously created and lost through the preservation of traditions, myths, and legacies of past generations. 

Q: Would you tell us about your childhood and its influence on your work? 
A: I was born and raised in Michigan where I had equal access to urban neighborhoods and the dirt roads and open farmland. It's that quaint Midwest kind of area. I first started seeing influences of home in my work during my time in New York. I would say my bi cultural experience growing up is what influences my work the most. I would also say my connection to nature influences my work as well. As a child I went outside and ventured into the woods beyond our backyard collecting bugs and teaching myself about nature. I always had an affinity for animals and nature. I recall those times when finding links and overlaps to my past and inherited legacies.

Q: How did you start painting? Do you start with a picture, an idea, or a story in mind?  
A: I have been drawing all my life. Since I could hold a pencil. I started painting in undergrad. I can't say I start in any one way. Sometimes the work starts with an image in mind, other times its a feeling, or a technical execution that motivates me. Sometimes I'll see something and think, 'oh...yea, that should be painted like this...' So sometimes it starts with clarity and other times it starts with moments of curiosity and I have to paint or draw something to find out why I was so attracted to it. A sense of elasticity in my studio practice is important to me. When simultaneously working on a large oil painting and a small ink drawing, each medium is revisited with fresh eyes, hands, and mind. Contrary to the non-erasable and 'restrictive' idea about drawing in ink, my colored ballpoint pen drawings offer a sense of freedom. My first mark is also my last mark. There's no taking it back, so why worry about it? I just keep drawing. It pushed me to become more disciplined and develop a sense of agility.

Q: How has the Academy shaped your practice? 
A: I came to the Academy to develop my technical skills and it has done that. Because the Academy has given me a stronger foundation, I feel less restrictive and encouraged to try new things. I've acquired skills that allow me to express my ideas and explore unknown territory.

Q: If you could retake any class at the academy what would it be?
A: Wade's drawing class 

Q: What did you learn most about yourself and practice during your post graduate year?
A: I learned more about what drawing and painting mean to me. 
Q: Can you share any rituals you may have in the studio?
A: The only thing I do consistently in the studio is clean up before I leave. I need a clean and somewhat organized space so I can focus when I return. I love being able to arrive at my studio and within minutes begin working. 
Q: What was the best advice given to you as an artist? 
A: A wise artist named Guno Park (MFA 2011) told me to "Just draw!"

Q: If you weren't an artist what would you be? 
A: I also like teaching dance (pop-n-lock, isolation, footwork, and body waves) so maybe that's what I would be doing. 
Q: Pick a piece and would you tell us about it?
A: Heir, 2014 (oil on canvas, 24 x 30 in). This is Ethan. He is the youngest first cousin in my family. He battles me every time I come home. He keeps my dancing skills on point. 

Q: Finally, what's next? 
A: Immediately after the opening reception for the "2014 Fellows" show, I am assisting international artist Liu Bolin on a project in Chelsea. Then, my work will be featured in a two- person show in November.  I will also be working on a few projects with Accesso Galleria in Italy. Besides that, I will be painting and drawing every day, living and working in the city. 


Currently, Nicolas V. Sanchez's work is featured in the "2014 Fellows" exhibition on view at the Academy's Wilkinson Gallery through September 28th.  This three-person show also features the work of 2014 Fellows Elizabeth Glaessner and Yunsung Jang.

Annually, the Academy awards Post-graduate fellowships to three exemplary graduating students chosen through a highly competitive selection process. During their Fellowship year, the Fellows receive studio accommodations, a stipend, exhibition opportunities and teaching assistantships to expand the depth and breadth of their artistic practice. The "2014 Fellows" show represents the culmination of their Fellowship year and the beginning of their promising careers beyond the Academy. 

To see more work from Nicolas V. Sanchez please visit his website.  Stay tuned for more interviews from Elizabeth Glaessner and Yunsung Jang during the exhibition's three week run.

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