Marta Sanchez: Art Formed by Culture, Tradition, and Memory
Marta Sanchez is an important Latina artist who over the past three decades has contributed to creating Latina and Chicana art in America while remaining engaged in teaching and social activism.
Born and raised in San Antonio, she attended Fox Tech High School and earned a Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas in Austin in 1982. Sanchez’ years at Austin were key to her development as a Chicana artist.
On the UT campus she met Santa Barraza, a talented young artist and graduate student in the University’s Master’s in Fine Arts program. Barraza, who had previously studied at Texas A&M Kingsville with Carmen Lomas Garza, Cesar Martinez, and Amado Pena, emerged as one of the central figures in the development of Chicano art in Texas.
To find her own voice as an artist, Sanchez gained inspiration from Austin’s many exhibitions, plays, and jazz sessions. The Texas capital city also saw the emergence of local artists Raul Valdez, Luis Guerra, and Jesus Trevino during the 1980s. Sanchez wrote: “My work slowly turned from being purely artistic to becoming art that served a purpose as I evolved from being a student, to an artist, to a Chicana artist.”
While in Austin in the 1980s, I never had a chance to meet Sanchez, although I was acquainted with the muralism of Raul Valdez and the print making of Sam Coronado. Sanchez collaborated with Coronado in her first important print of the San Antonio train yards.
Sanchez has resided the last 30 years in the state of Pennsylvania, but she is deeply committed to her Texas roots. She wrote: “Regardless of where I am living, I will always be the Chicana from San Antonio, Texas.”
Her work as an artist and teacher keeps her busy. While she remains a very accomplished artist, she also earns a living as a museum teacher with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and an art instructor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
For much of her life Sanchez has been fascinated with railroads. Her family lived a few blocks from the large train yards of San Antonio and from her porch she often watched trains come and go. As a child she also admired the train track patterns and the many hundreds of trains that gathered there on a daily basis. “There I would draw the landscape full of trains and wonder about their departures and arrivals.”
The railroads came to San Antonio 120 years before any artist took an interest in them. Sanchez wanted to change that. She considered the railroad key to San Antonio’s early economic development. Trains brought manufactured goods to the city and made possible the shipment of raw resources such as cattle and agricultural products. Moreover, Mexican workers helped build the railroad lines and utilized them as a means of moving to and from San Antonio.
In the late 1990s Marta Sanchez returned to Austin for several weeks to engage in a train yard art print series with artist and print master Sam Coronado. Coronado founded a silk screen print studio in the late 1980s and invited prominent artists to participate in his Coronado Studio Serie print project.
Sanchez approaches her artistic life with the idea of “sharing art, history, and activism.” Her next project will likely bring her back to San Antonio as she is preparing an egg cookbook based on cascarones. The recipes likely illustrated by her art, will feature her Chicana history, culture, and traditions.
Copyright by Ricardo Romo. All art work and photo of Marta Sanchez copyright by Marta Sanchez and used by permission.