Joseph Sanchez

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Joseph Sanchez (right) in a panel discussion with Gerald McMaster (left) and Paul Chaat Smith (center)

Joseph M. Sanchez (born ca. 1948) is an artist and museum curator.


Joseph M Sanchez is an American artist from Trinidad, Colorado, by way of the White Mountain Apache Reservation and Taos Pueblo. A leader in Indigenous and Chicano arts since the 1970s, Joseph has worked with hundreds of artists creating work, developing exhibitions, and advocating for the rights of minority artists, most importantly with the Professional Native Indian Artists (Indian Group of Seven). A spiritual surrealist, Joseph's work is sensual and dreamlike, provocative and thought-inducing. Still producing work, and exhibiting across the United States and Canada, Joseph M Sanchez is simultaneously a community elder, and an instigator at the front lines of the battle for the creation of art and how we define it as a culture.


Born in Trinidad, Colorado to Pueblo, Spanish, and German parents, Joseph Marcus Sanchez was raised in Whiteriver, Arizona on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. In 1966 he graduated from Alchesay High School in Whiteriver, with the intent to join the priesthood. This was not the right fit, and he returned home to the White Mountains. Sadly, his mother became ill and died unexpectedly. Soon after, in 1968 he joined the United States Marine Corps and was stationed in San Diego, California, where he trained soldiers drafted for the Vietnam War.

In 1970, He travelled to Canada, where he met Ann Nadine Krajeck, a young photographer. They were married and settled in Richer, Manitoba, eventually purchasing a 20-acre farm Giroux, Manitoba. In February 1975, Sanchez returned to the United States under President Gerald Ford's amnesty program. Ann stayed in Canada, and Joseph traveled back and forth until she joined him in Arizona in 1978.

In 1981, Joseph and Ann had a daughter, Rosa Nadine Xochimilco, and they lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Joseph maintained a studio on Cattletrack Road. During the 1980s, Sanchez developed a program as an artist in residence at Rosa's schools, teaching college level art history and technique to elementary school students. More than half of those students have gone on to become professional artists.

Sanchez travelled for his work, and in 1990 began traveling to Santa Fe, New Mexico where he met Margaret Burke. In 1996 he made his Santa Fe residence permanent, and they had a son, Jerome Bonafacio Xocotl. Joseph and Margaret were married in 2006.

Joseph M. Sanchez still lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he maintains a studio and paints daily.

Artistic career[edit]

An artist from an early age, beginning in 1956 with the encouragement of his 5th grade teacher Ms. Gutierrez. His first mediums were painting on glass and embroidery. He continued to work, creating large portraits of friends and family, and in high school began to independently study art in the Renaissance, Surrealism, Dada, and Contemporary Art of the 1960s. His personal surrealist style began to formalize in 1968 during his years as a member of United States Marine Corps with a drawing on newsprint called the Unconsummated Rape of Mongo.

Sanchez lived in Canada from the early to mid-1970s, and was a founding member of the "Professional Native Indian Artists, Incorporated”, otherwise known as the Indian Group of Seven. In Winnipeg he met Daphne Odjig, who had opened up the Warehouse Gallery in the early 1970s (now the Wahsa Gallery). In 1971, Sanchez showed Odjig a second version of the "Unconsummated Rape of Mongo" which she purchased and used to create an offset print, starting the career that continues today.

It was with Odjig, Alex Janvier, Norval Morrisseau, Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, and Carl Ray, that Sanchez collectively created the PNAI, Inc in November 1973, and was officially incorporated in February 1974. Although more than 50 artists had been invited to participate, it was only these seven that answered the call to come to Winnipeg.[1] Solo and with the group he has exhibited in group shows in Canada, Europe, and the United States. It was during this time, he was named by the Ojibway.[2]

In 1974, Sanchez was commissioned to create the painting "The Virgin of Light" to be given as the Juno Award for Multiculturalism in Music. The same year he was measured and photographed with the painting for the Toronto Wax Museum.

Sanchez returned to the United States in 1976 and, meeting new artists, formed two collectives near Phoenix, the Movimiento Artistic del Rio Salado (M.A.R.S.), Azoma, and Artizlan, helping lead Chicano artists to collaborate and exhibit together. In addition he helped create the National Association of Artist Organizations (NAAO) to benefit American artists on a national level. With this activist attitude, Sanchez developed exhibitions, changed museums, and created artist in residence programs for schools, with a focus being on sharing these experiences with the Native American community, especially the youth.

Sanchez continued to paint, perform, and develop art workshops for youth during the 1980s and 1990s, while developing his career as a curator, while honing his craft. In 1990, Sanchez visited Paris, which sparked an abundance of work. Yet, despite occasional exhibitions, Sanchez's energy was mostly spent supporting the careers of fellow artists.

In the 2000s, with his move to Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sanchez's work shifted in tone and color, adapting to the new landscape. With a new studio, Sanchez returned to large scale works like those of the early 1990s, some measuring as much as 15 ft tall. Also returning to drawing more frequently, the quality of work produced in the Santa Fe studio shows his long time dedication to craft and technique. Joseph M. Sanchez still maintains his studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he paints daily.

Professional Life / Curatorial Career[edit]

In 1978 he began work at the worked at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts as a security guard, becoming a gallery assistant until 1982. Soon Sanchez was recruited by the Phoenix Art Museum as a preparator, where he remained from 1982-1984.

In 1983 Sanchez began his own business, ARTS, catering to museums, galleries, institutions, collectors, and artists in the Phoenix, Area in all manner of art preparation, crating, transportation, and curation which he maintained until 1988. It was through this that he met one of his mentors, Phillip C. Curtis for whom Sanchez served as an artist assistant from 1979-1999. It was also during this time that he also returned to the Scottsdale Center for the Arts as a contract exhibition designer and curator. His curatorial success during this time was "First Contact...the search," a provocative and successful exhibition about UFOs and the paranormal.

In 1989 began working for the Riva Yares Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona full-time, though he had been their registrar from 1977. He worked in Scottsdale, and facilitated the opening of the Riva Yares Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, now known as the Yares Project until 1996.

In 1996 he became Director for the Laynor Foundation Museum.

In 2001 he began volunteering for the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.[3] He soon became their Exhibition Coordinator. Later, Sanchez was named the Chief Curator at the IAIA Museum, now known as the Museum of Contemporary Native Art, and was acting Director until his retirement in 2010.

In 2008, Sanchez was named the United States curator for the SITE Santa Fe Biennial, "Lucky Number 7," including an essay in the published catalogue.

In 2001, Sanchez was curator for "Native American Art at Dartmouth from the Collection of the Hood Museum," at Dartmouth College, including an essay in their book on Native American art coinciding with the show.

Since retirement, Sanchez has continued to curate, but primarily returned to the studio full-time, and continues to exhibit in galleries and museums internationally.


  • 1975 Dominion Gallery, Montreal, Quebec (see Indian Group of Seven)
  • 1975 Wallack Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
  • 1975 Art Emporium, Vancouver, B.C.
  • 1990s Spirits of the Sun exhibition in Phoenix[1]
  • 2009 Perversions of the Curator:a minor retrospective February 13 – March 15, 2009[3]


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