University Museum prepares for Sanchez exhibit

Two graduate assistants and University Museum Director Eric Barnett are in the process of selecting pieces for the first exhibit at the new Art and Design Building gallery. And they have nearly 500 pieces to choose from.

Graduate student Carrie Smith prepares pieces for the University Museum's Emilio Sanchez exhibit, which opens March 21 at the new Art and Design Building gallery. Photo by Kari Williams

The overarching theme for the exhibit, which opens March 21 and features pieces by artist Emilio Sanchez, is light. Within that theme, Barnett said they are trying to show “the development of how [Sanchez] interpreted light in various environments.”

“I’m focusing on light and how he saw both reflected and refracted light and then within that concept of light I want to show how he worked in various media,” Barnett said. “So I want to show some of his process in making art.”

Some of the Sanchez pieces are not complete works, and Barnett said most art museums “display objects with no interpretation” and only show finished pieces.

“We don’t typically get to see how an artist gets to that point [of the finished product],” Barnett said.

University Museum graduate assistant Carrie Smith said Sanchez was “pretty prolific” in his mediums. The pieces SIUE acquired from the Emilio Sanchez Foundation last January include oil, water color, colored pencil and graphite.

Because the exhibit focuses on Sanchez’s use of light, Smith said fellow graduate assistant Noelle Norris and she separated the pieces into categories by medium and subject matter.

Norris said they have to look at “each and every piece” to decide if the use of light is “going to be representative to what we want to get across in the exhibit.”

Smith said it takes about one hour to an hour and a half to research, catalog and accession pieces, though that depends on the size of the piece.

Smith and Norris also have to take the size of the gallery into consideration when selecting pieces, most of which have to be hung. There is a lot of window space in the new Art and Design Building gallery, though Smith said they will use drawing tables and easels.

Smith and Norris have been prepping for the exhibit for the past two months. Smith said she loves being able to see the different mediums Sanchez used.

“Having studied art it’s just fascinating…,” Smith said. “You’re just not going to get a collection more extensive than this. … [He] painted and then sketched with pencil the same landscape or the same sunset and you get to see the exact same view in different mediums.”

Norris, who studied art as an undergraduate, said it was “quite an experience” going through Sanchez’s colored pencil pieces and recognizing the brands he used.

Barnett said the University Museum received the pieces because the Emilio Sanchez Foundation was “dispersing the works” and he contacted the foundation’s New York office to select pieces. Barnett said he tried to select pieces that represented the different media Sanchez worked with.

“I tried to get a cross section both ways,” Barnett said, “and in doing that we got a bunch of things that are sketchy, that were like the beginnings of exploring a subject, then some drawings that were more developed and then some final paintings.”

Smith said it will be nice for the University Museum to have the first showing in the new gallery and “give some awareness to the museum and to the collection.”

Some pieces from the exhibit are already featured in administrative offices, according to Smith, but the exhibit in March will be the first time the pieces are on display.

Pieces not used in the exhibit will be stored at the University Museum and some will be framed and hung in offices around campus.

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