"I feel guilty because I am having such a wonderful time in the studio," says artist Diego Sanchez. (Photo by Beth Fergurson)
Who: Diego Sanchez
When: April 24 - May 27
Where: Randolph Macon College's Flippo Gallery
Longtime fans of Diego Sanchez may notice something is missing from his most recent paintings: recognizable objects. “I have been trying to get away from representational work for a while,” he explains. “The most difficult thing is taking a chance after you’re comfortable and successful. … It takes courage to do something different.”
Sanchez’s layered, colorful work has always featured elements of abstraction in the background. But the objects — whether iconic buildings such as the Coliseum, ordinary items like chairs and vases, or industrial references like water towers and tools — were the focus.
Sanchez's new paintings reflects a move toward abstraction as he experiments with beeswax and cold wax. (Photo by Beth Fergurson)
His new direction was inspired by artist Cindy Neuschwander, a good friend, who died in 2012. “Cindy told me she liked the backgrounds of my paintings, and that I should try to make paintings without objects,” he recalls. In 2013, he created a series of 100 small abstract works on paper in her honor, a project that fueled his desire to step even farther out of his comfort zone.
When Neuschwander’s husband, Jay Barrows, gave Sanchez her art supplies last summer, he was further inspired. The cache included beeswax and cold wax, materials favored by Neuschwander, but not a regular part of Sanchez’s repertoire.
“I thought, ‘why not give it a try?’ ” he recalls, and began experimenting. He was hooked. “I enjoy the surfaces I am getting and [I] love the consistency of the wax, the texture, the smell,” he says. “ … I feel guilty because I am having such a wonderful time in the studio.”
At Randolph-Macon, he will show his new work along with some older, representational pieces. Sanchez, who has taught art at St. Catherine’s School for 16 years, hopes it will be a good learning experience for students to see his evolution as an artist. “The great thing about the creative process is that it’s going to change as you change,” he says.