Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Juan Sanchez has typically created politically charged bodies of work. Touching upon the struggles of Puerto Ricans, his work tends to address the battle many disadvantaged Puerto Ricans face here in the States. But Abuelita is different. Created on a fleeting moment of remembrance, Abuelita stands strong in contrast to previous works of art Juan had created.
It’s a side of me that is not usually exposed through my art, its presents a more vulnerable side, a universal human sentiment.
Juan Sanchez’s daughter’s first steps were the inspiration for Abuelita (1991/2003). The experience of seeing his daughter gain enough strength to take her first steps in contrast to witnessing his mother, in her older age, quickly lose that strength created a sense of melancholy and nostalgia yet an overwhelming vigor to nurture a new life journey.
The instantaneous sight of his daughter and his mother was enough to spontaneously create this piece. Working straight from the heart, he create Abuelita in less then an hour. Abuelita was created from an original black and white gelatin silver print, shot back in 1979, collaged onto patterned paper. Oil pastels and ink were also used in this collage. Eventually this piece was scanned and digitized specifically for En Foco’s Print Collectors Program.
Abuelita became about the cycle of humanity. Feet tend to symbolize one’s journey, possibly the hardships of that journey as well as the continual drive to keep moving forward. While his daughter’s journey was just beginning, his mother’s journey had already come to an end. Though Juan tends to speak about a Puerto Rican experience in his work, this piece was meant to cover a human experience. Recognizing that that photograph was taken at a point in his mother’s life where the parental-child role began to reverse itself, he knew this piece expressed a universal experience of growing older.
How many people remember their grandmothers in worn down slippers? That image, even though it is just a photograph of feet in worn out slippers, it is an iconic image. Those are the feet of a middle aged Puerto Rican woman, but could just as well be an Italian woman, or a Jewish woman. It’s iconic because it’s universal.
There is a limited quantity of this iconic image, Abuelita (1991/2003) available in En Foco’s Print Collectors Program, so if you are interested in owning a piece that speaks to the journeys of life, be sure to claim yours soon!