Natalia Sanchez

Natalia Sanchez

Seven large canvas frames lean against a corner of Natalia Sanchez’s new studio space. She spent most of this Friday building, breaking down, and then rebuilding these wooden rectangles. This CCAD graduate appears the perfect combination of exhausted and exhilarated. The canvases are slated to feature a series of paintings inspired by chakras – or psychic energy centers.

Sanchez – who is originally from Bayamon, Puerto Rico – has built canvases the same way for the past four years. Yet, she admits, this time her design didn’t translate to these larger forms quite how she expected. When a fellow artist at Blockfort Gallery & Studio initially recommended she build them another way, she took umbrage to the suggestion. After further thought and consideration, she asked them for help. The end result is seven strong and beautiful frames ready to be clad with canvas and painted.

These frames strike me as part of a larger theme that developed during our conversation. Natalia Sanchez is a contradiction – someone both set in their ways and incredibly spontaneous. Yet, these seemingly incongruous personality traits (she is a self-described “impulsive problem-solver”) – coupled with her constant willingness to learn – positively influence her art and life experiences. Check out Sanchez’s work on her website, and listen more to this artist’s story on this week’s ¡Dímelo, Columbus!:

Finding strangeness in Columbus, Ohio:

🎧 Listen (4:40)
“When I started painting has to do with how I got here… It was my junior year in high school where I had this one art class – and it was a painting class… I would go after school and ask her [the teacher] to show me how to paint. I got more deep into it… and I really enjoyed it, it was something that was so liberating for me… In Puerto Rico being an artist is so hard because there’s not really any way to make money off of it?… So when I decided to be an artist, my dad suggested I go to Texas… I didn’t realize I could just go you know?… I wanted a change from a small island, I wanted something big and completely different… I applied and got accepted [to CCAD].”
“I have freedom as an artist… It is hard to come up with unique ideas and be consistent. It can be really, really hard, but I’d rather have this type of hard than any other one. Because it gives me freedom to do whatever I want as long as I stay within the law [laughs].”

“Casting Spells” through art:

🎧  Listen (4:19)
“I really enjoy human interaction and human connection – different types of humans and vibes and energies. Back in Puerto Rico there are so many different kind of people… I put myself in their shoes, go in their wave and just ride it… I like painting energies — how do I paint something that is intangible? I do that through sound, through color, through shape, through form.”
“I’ve been doing this thing recently where I take people that I know and I turn them into landscapes. I use colors that remind me of them and shapes and objects and I add my own symbology to the painting based on what I know about that person. Thinking about it as though I’m almost casting a spell… I’m just trying to uplift through paintings.”
Despierta Boricua (2017)- Santurce, Puerto Rico
“As many know, Puerto Rico in going through a huge crisis- economically, politically, socially and even spiritually. Our deceitful government has led us into a $70 billion debt, which is causing our most educated and talented citizens to rush out of the island to find jobs. Puerto Rico is continually being stripped of its riches, BUT we are blessed to have vast amounts of fertile land and optimal weather conditions. Millennials in Puerto Rico are reawakening to the fact that we must return to the land. It’s our only hope in creating a self-sustaining and sovereign country. 20×10′” (from

Painting the biggest picture:

🎧 Listen (5:43)
“My color palette is very directly influenced by San Juan [Puerto Rico] specifically. Like you walk through old San Juan and you have all these different colored houses, and the beach, and the sun is just reflecting on the grass – and it’s so bright! And there’s all these different bright vivid colors… I feel like there’s no way I can do something muted, it just doesn’t feel right!”
“I’ve discovered that I love doing murals so much more than just painting in studio because of the community aspect of it. There’s the air running through my face and the sun… It’s so invigorating. I also wanted to travel… Everywhere I go I just want to do murals, and I can get paid for it if I do it enough ahead of time.”

Returning to Puerto Rico:

🎧  Listen (3:39)
How do I identify myself? I’m very impulsive, that’s for sure. I do things without thinking of everything involved, but I learn from it… I’m an impulsive problem solver, and an artist, and Puerto Rican. I love Puerto Rico. I have a tattoo on my chest that says “preciosa te llevo dentro,” it’s from a traditional song, and also sang by Marc Antony later. It’s about people leaving Puerto Rico and never coming back because of money or because they got comfortable in the U.S. So this is always a reminder my heart will always be in Puerto Rico and I will always come back. I don’t care where in the world I end up,  I will always come back to Puerto Rico.”

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