Into the Void with Daisy Sanchez

Everyone is doing cool shit, and Daisy Sanchez is soaking it all in.


When the independent curator Daisy Sanchez lived under a Catholic roof growing up, she was made to attend mass twice a week and participate in a religious after-school program. One specific teaching struck her to the point where, to this day, it’s morphed into a sort of guiding principle: the group had been learning about a parable wherein a well-to-do vineyard owner solicits workers over the course of 24 hours, then ends up paying everyone — both the workers who were there from the break of dawn, and the workers who came significantly later — the exact same wage. “The people who had been there since the morning were like, Hey, what the fuck? We’ve been working all day; how come those people get the same pay as we do?” Sanchez tells me, eyes darting behind a pair of sleek octagonal frames, as we chat over coffee at a bench in Manhattan’s Seward Park. “Then the vineyard owner’s like, Well, it wasn’t their fault that, just by chance, they weren’t picked up earlier. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to get the daily bread as well.

When Sanchez heard this for the first time as a seven-year-old, the entire thing registered as morbidly fucked-up nonsense. But today, she says, it emanates a new message steeped from years of experience: being who she is in the art world, and having the autonomy to not need to worry so much about her own “daily bread,” it has become her prerogative to make sure everyone gets an equal shot. “It stuck with me because it was really challenging,” she says of the parable. “It’s challenging, but then you’re like Oh shit, I get it. It totally opened up my mind and the way I thought about things later.”

“Everyone has an ego, but a great curator or gallerist finds their ego in other people.”

If Oxford were to finally assimilate to the digital age and replace all written-out definitions with images, the one for “open-mindedness” would more than likely be a slyly grinning Sanchez, donning an ironic baseball cap and mischievously twiddling her fingers. (At least this is the vibe I get when she meets me at Doyers Street in Chinatown — she’s wearing a blue girl scouts cap with her name on it, all the while radiating a swagger that seems to scream “I currently have 98 tabs open on my laptop.” Which, she confirmed to me via email, just so happens to be true: as you read this, she does indeed have 98 and counting tabs open on her laptop.) Sanchez thrives heavily on research, especially surrounding fashion, though she’s both visibly and verbally no hardcore fashionista. As of right now, she’s directing her sartorial crate-digging practice towards an upcoming group show she’s slated to curate at Entrance, a gallery space in Manhattan, centered around the various stigmas operating against fashion work in high art circles. It’s called “Trivial Pursuit” — a nod to how the art world often tends to minimize the fashion industry — and it’s scheduled to feature eight artists, four of which are based in New York and the other four of which are based in London. Aside from a day job she works at Theta, another upstart Manhattan gallery, Sanchez’s day-to-day lately has consisted of countless late-night check-in calls across time zones, a dense Google Doc dedicated to corresponding research, and logistical housekeeping ranging from scoping out the transportation of the works to figuring out how they’re going to be displayed. It is all very tedious labor. But for her, the nonstop gallery grind offers a sort of life-affirming catharsis: when you’re excited enough about someone else’s art to make these kinds of sacrifices, who’s to say a piece of you isn’t somewhere in every piece you handle? 

“I feel like working in galleries is kind of just trying to get the word out about the people you believe in,” she muses. “How I kind of conceptualize it is that my job is to be professionally stoked on people. I’m like a professional hype man. Which I love. Because even if you’re not super hyped on yourself, you’re hyped on other people and what they’re doing, and you really believe in it, so that kind of propels you forward. Everyone’s doing cool shit. Even if I’m not into what someone’s making, I’m happy that everyone’s doing shit.”

The sentiment is one that extends beyond just her proximity to art, but seems to inform how she coexists with her surroundings writ large. At one point in our conversation, for instance, a woman blankly stares at us up-close for an uncomfortably long time before asking for spare change — a request Sanchez quickly honors by whipping a crisp bill out of a zipper on the sleeve of her bomber jacket (she has progressed past the need for wallets and now uses her coat as a makeshift) then peppily wishing our visitor a good day. Showing me through her neighborhood later on in the afternoon, there is another moment where she stops me to fixate on something she’s quite intrigued by: a basement cellar door, covered by a flattened garbage bag, fastened down by several strips of blue duct tape, all weighed down by a single rock. Not only is everyone doing shit in New York City; everything is doing shit, too. And whether it be a sentient being (this is not limited to humans: she spends a bit of time freaking me out about the thousands of undiscovered insect species roaming planet Earth) or an inanimate object, Sanchez is uncannily hyped that whatever happens to be doing something is doing it. 

The first time I met with Sanchez, it was mid-December, and the thing “doing shit” was an exhibition of works at Theta by Jason Hirata and Tony Chrenka. As a space, Theta operates as yet another compelling basement cellar in New York City, only that its essence is slightly hinted at by the somewhat gothic angel-of-death character taken on by its entrance — the two doors, at one point held ajar on either side by two grotesque fence segments, open down to a basement area that makes you feel a bit like you’re either in on a secret, or at a point of no return. When I came in, Sanchez and her boss, Theta’s founder Jordan Barse, quickly wrapped up a conversation about “yesterday’s outfit” to give me an in-depth walkthrough, Barse explaining as much as she could before getting taken away by other work, and Sanchez showing me around the remainder of the space until she, too, had to get busy. What intrigued me then was that, despite having had far more knowledge on the show at hand than I did, Sanchez constantly seemed to be way more interested in hearing what I had to say (mostly jumbled ramblings about the late art collector Robert Scull — it felt a lot like when the teacher cold calls on you and you have to stutter through a smart answer on the fly) than anything she could have told me. Yet when she did offer words about the works on display, she had so obviously been an obsessive nerd about them that, by the time I left, I desperately wanted to be an obsessive nerd about them too. Gallery work is contingent upon striking this impossible balance, one where you must be knowledgeable of what’s being presented to the point of geeking out, but also just geeked out enough to want to know what other people think. The sole way to possibly accomplish this is to have a visceral attachment to the art you’re dealing with. Only the artist both knows their work and is curious for other perspectives naturally, but when you take on the task of presenting, you also become an extension of the creator.

Flattened shelf by Jason Hirata, as exhibited at Theta this past December

…Which is exactly the kind of thing Sanchez lives for. Over the course of all of our conversations, over email, at Theta, and in the busy streets of Chinatown, a common through-line is that she’s far more enticed by talking about the brilliance of others than that of her own. Every single time I try to ask her questions that would coax her into speaking about herself — If you were to be an artist, what kind of art do you think you’d be making? Can you give me a condensed timeline of how you wound up here in New York? How have you been since this past December? — I end up bearing witness to riveting mini-lectures about (respectively) either the distinct idiosyncrasies present in a room full of people drawing the same still-life, the intriguing history of Philip Guston’s harrowing Ku Klux Klan paintings, or how the co-founders of Queer Thoughts, another New York gallery, are both incredible geniuses. She absorbs a breadth of knowledge that makes her more or less of a walking art history encyclopedia, but rather than use such knowledge as a neon you-must-listen-to-what-I-have-to-say badge, an eclectic mix of curiosity and humility makes her indefinitely inclined to sit back and take in more of it. “It’s the mark of a great curator,” Louis Osmosis, a Brooklyn-based sculptor Sanchez is curating an upcoming exhibition with, said. “Everyone has an ego, but a great curator or gallerist finds their ego in other people.”

The most recent show Sanchez put together was Cover Girl, the debut solo exhibition of 20-year-old artist Hannah Taurins. It’s premise — fashion and the public eye, much like Sanchez’s upcoming Trivial Pursuit show — is something she has spent hours upon hours researching, not as a disgruntled gallery rat, but as an obsessive archivist whose hobby-of-choice just so happens to entail falling down cultural rabbit-holes, head-first, at terminal velocity. Speaking about it with me, it doesn’t take long for her to go from the complete adoration she has for Taurins’ work, to how she’d describe it to a visitor particularly interested in Belgian fashion, to how she’d describe it to a visitor not particularly interested in Belgian fashion, to her obsession with vintage artist interviews, all the way up to the political ideations of Franco Moschino. “I’m a big Moschino fan — R.I.P — and he did this interview with the Times in ‘86 where he talked about how he went to art school because he wanted to become a painter,” she recounts, excitedly taking me through a recent research foray. “But how do you economically support yourself as a young painter? So he was talking about how he wanted to make art, and the most economically viable but also interesting way to make money through art was through fashion. He had this great line that was like: fashion pays.”

Taurins, Hannah
Undercover, 2022
Colored pencil and marker on paper mounted to board
11 x 14 x 1.5 in

The notion is an interesting microcosm of a much larger issue at play, not only for Sanchez, but for the art world as a whole: there’s a fine line between what pays and what doesn’t, and where you happen to fall on the socioeconomic ladder plays a crippling role in what you can and cannot do. In one story she tells me as we get lost several times en route to Aujla’s Coffee Shop, a teenage Sanchez worked an unpaid gallery internship with two other 20-something co-workers. Because she had already garnered enough footing in the gallery work infrastructure to be able to survive a worst case scenario outcome, she entered the job with a plan to confront its heads about their paying scheme, and perhaps convince them to change it up a bit. (She credits this boldness to Ellie Rines, the “baller” [Sanchez’s words] director of Chinatown’s 56 Henry Gallery who first showed her how hard others’ brilliance ought to be fought for.) Foreseeably, the worst case scenario did end up being what went down — Sanchez typed out, rehearsed, and all-but memorized a radical spiel about the importance of paying workers, and upon presenting it to her visibly-irked boss, did not even make it past lunchtime before realizing that her job email no longer worked. But as anti-climactic of an ending this specific tale has, it all speaks to a sense Sanchez constantly seems to be guided by. She does not, once again, have to worry as much about her own daily bread — albeit, even if only for the sake of one other artist that doesn’t have that luxury, she has dedicated herself wholeheartedly to the fight for everyone else to get a piece of the pie. 

“It’s awesome realizing how little you know.”

One of the most significant enactments of this mission, perhaps, is “Daisy’s Room,” a gallery she founded from her flat in London during the early stages of the pandemic. “Before everything got shut down, I had submitted my thesis, and my friend Brie — she’s Canadian and she’d shown in Canada and the States, but hadn’t had a solo in the UK — was applying for an artist visa to stay there,” she says of the gallery’s beginnings, getting up to scoop her wind-blown coffee cup off the ground for about the third time today. (“Littering–can’t do it,” she told me in an email. “My cigarette butts get stuffed into my pockets until I find a bin. I’d sooner swallow them than toss one to the ground.”) “She was worried about it, so I was like Okay, here’s what we’re going to do…” 

The plan, teeming with the kind of do-it-yourself scrappiness that populates coming-of-age movies, was for Sanchez to move her mattress to her living room, make a website and Instagram account for the “gallery,” show Brie’s work in it, and have the entire thing function as a ruse for her to get her visa. Not only did the trick work — on top of granting Brie her papers, it also turned into an unconventional launching pad for her career in London. “Afterwards, a gallery in London that worked with my boss was really into Brie’s work that she showed,” she says, “and she put some of her work in a group show there, and it was in an actual gallery with an actual nice space. Then I was kind of like, Oh shit, things can come of this.” The next show she would go on to curate at Daisy’s Room, a collective exhibition featuring works by Gal Schindler and Nico-Lou Monheim Carrasquillo, also wound up leaving tracks well beyond Sanchez’s four walls: “It was crazy, because people bought Gal’s work. One guy who bought it was a gallerist I had known through Instagram — he’s doing a show with her that’s up right now in London. Then the other guy who bought her work has, like, a private museum in London. He bought a work of hers, and now she’s in a group show there.”

What made Daisy’s Room a necessary fixture, and arguably Sanchez as well, is the sort of intimate, at-home ethos that eschews what stringent formality high art culture has long made it a point to bank on. It’s something you get from both delving into the gallery, and talking to its founder alike: Sanchez cares far more about curating opportunities than curating commodities, and the organic nature of such a construct translates into growth for not only her own mind, but the trajectories of those fortunate enough to come into contact with it. There’s a heartwarming story in which the New York Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica sees Virgil Abloh backstage at an event and, upon playfully chastising him about a few Pyrex Vision orders that never came through, is told by the late designer that “we sell ideas!” Daisy Sanchez operates ostensibly on the same wavelength — for her, the high of having ideas outweighs the need to force them into a hierarchical construct; the luxury of information is to be democratized, not walled off under the guise of haute aesthetics.

“Daisy’s Room is much more intimate than most galleries out there in London,” Ruoru Mou, a UK-based artist who had a solo show curated by Sanchez, told me in an email. “Visitors would come through the door, some take their shoes off when entering and chat around the living room as hours go by. It’s a space in which conversation would flow naturally and usually accompanied with homemade treats made by Daisy’s flatmate at the time. My Portuguese friend visited at my opening and said it reminds her of those small art spaces in Lisbon, where friends and strangers gather in someone’s living space, greeted with food and drinks while they chat about the artworks amongst other everyday household objects. I feel like art galleries in London have reached a very developed and mature stage, and openings can often be quite othering and intimidating for those who don’t know the artists exhibiting or the gallerist who runs the space. We need more spaces like Daisy’s Room for emerging artists to connect.”

“I think at a certain point I realized you just have to say ‘fuck it’ and be yourself. I have, literally, one life. I don’t know how long I have it. And I want to kiss girls.”

Daisy’s Room would wind up coming to a morbidly poetic end — because of artist visa issues of her own, Sanchez wound up having to shutter its doors indefinitely. (If you visit the gallery’s website today, a tongue-in-cheek postscript reads: “Daisy’s Room began as a ploy to help an artist secure a creative visa to continue to live and work in the UK, and ended as a result of the termination of Daisy’s UK visa.” The statement is followed by a link to lodge a complaint with the UK Home office over their immigration policy.) Oddly enough, speaking about it, she comes through with far more of an oh-well tonality about the conundrum than a heartbroken one. There is simply more to be done — the same way she’s hyped that everyone (and everything) is doing shit, she’s equally driven about doing shit herself. This nonstop motor is as evident on paper as it is in person: for one, at just a matter of months removed from finishing college, she’s worked an endless list of gallery jobs spanning from her teenage years to now. Then again, when you actually meet her in person, the nonstop motor manifests itself in a sort of stirring informational stream-of-consciousness, one that feels quite a bit like 98 tabs of miscellaneous cultural data desperately trying to jump out of her mouth all at once in order to free up space in a mental hard drive. All Sanchez can do is do

“I can confidently say that Daisy’s not one of those people where the impetus has anything to do with coolness,” Osmosis said. “She like, legit, is really about this shit.” 

For someone who’s as about this shit as Sanchez is about this shit, it’s somewhat maddening that she doesn’t choose to wear it on her sleeve. A great micro-level focus point is how, despite being entrenched in the fashion world both intellectually and literally — she’s reached milestones in that realm she’s insistent on not wanting to publicize because “there is a certain mystique or aura of coolness that working in fashion confers, which I (mostly) try to eschew” — her wardrobe is modest to the point where she wears the same jacket every day and loyally sticks to the same pair of hyper-casual house slippers. She could very well be the most knowledgeable, and esteemed, person in any fashion-adjacent space she occupies. But much like she is when it comes to her curatorial practice, she’s far more obsessed with gleaning from her surroundings than she is with being the expert. 

“It’s great being the dumbest person in the room, because then you can learn from everyone else,” she says. “I would not want to be the smartest person in the room. Because I’m not going to learn from anyone. It’s awesome realizing how little you know.”

🤯 🤯 🤯

Lorser Feitelson’s 1936 painting “Life Begins” is a jagged, unconventionally-angled vision board of its titular premise. On a blue canvas shaped a bit like a hyper-pixelated female cartoon character’s ponytailed side profile, three images — one of a baby being delivered under the watchful eye of several doctors, another of miscellaneous cosmic matter, and a third being a modest painting of a peach — serve as an indistinct moodboard of sorts, investigating by proximity the nature of conception both in humanity and the universal elements that grant it its context. When Sanchez was a kid, “Life Begins” was her favorite work. She had first seen it at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as part of a trajectory-changing arts after-school program, then grew more and more enthralled with it upon several subsequent visits to the institution. “A lot of luck was involved in that initial encounter—lucky to be living in Los Angeles, lucky to go to a public school with enough funding to send us on field trips to LACMA, lucky to have a mom who had the time and money to take me to an art museum to see my favorite painting, etc,” she wrote in an email. “So much had to collide for me to come face to face with Life Begins, and that encounter charted a path in my life which in a sense began with standing under it, utterly perplexed and in awe.”

Sanchez grew up in California, first living in Los Angeles, then attending high school in San Francisco. When she was 16, she moved with her mom and her younger brother to New York, where she did a program at the Cooper Union and began to increasingly realize that she was more into the art others were making than her own. This passion quickly translated into a slew of gallery jobs where she “could enjoy being the dumbest person in the room,” leading up to a London college experience that saw her intern for three days a week and attend school for three more.

At the same time that she began growing more in touch with the ethos of other people and institutions, she also started to delve deeper into her own interior. Because she was often mistaken to be white in certain circles growing up, she was constantly exposed to the way otherized groups were regarded behind the closed doors of more dominant ones. “It was kind of a funny thing for me to subtly notice how people’s attitudes towards me shifted,” she says. “Being, like, a young white girl is societally seen as the pinnacle of innocence. And goodness. When I was fourteen I started dressing more masculine, and I cut all my hair off… just noticing how, suddenly, strangers were less friendly to me.”

“How do I make the most of having a super amazing, lucky shot in life?’”

There was a point where, as she was growing up in California, Sanchez witnessed the way another lesbian classmate was ostracized upon coming out. There was a part of her that naturally recoiled in fear — if this is what happened to her, what’s going to happen to me? — but around the ages of 13 and 14, she definitively made a decision to embrace what made her an outlier. “I felt this difference and I was like, fuck it, I’m going to lean into it,” she tells me, her voice competing with the shrieks of young children jumping on the playground behind us. “I think at a certain point I realized you just have to say ‘fuck it’ and be yourself. I have, literally, one life. I don’t know how long I have it. And I want to kiss girls. So it’s happening.”

If you type “Life Begins” into a Google search bar today, every last suggestion the algorithm serves you will refer in some way to the nationwide debate about abortion. It is in this sense that, as Sanchez pointed out to me in an email, Feitelson’s painting was eerily prophetic. The key word here is “eerily,” though, and such a quality was only reached by inadvertent curiosity. It wouldn’t be so eerie if Lorser Feitelson intentionally crafted the piece with 21st Century hyper-partisan discourse surrounding the politicization of womens’ bodies high up on his agenda. In its complete, selfless randomness, it strikes an organic accuracy that leaves room for further expansion across generations. 

Lorser Feitelson (United States, Georgia, Savannah, active Los Angeles, 1898-1978)
United States, 1936
Oil and collage on masonite
23 1/4 × 27 3/4 × 2 in. (59.06 × 70.49 × 5.08 cm)

Sanchez is a lot like “Life Begins,” in that although (and because) she isn’t deliberately shooting to be the main character, nor assert herself towards even the discourses she is beyond authorized to inhabit, her influence speaks as loudly as the gaps it chooses not to fill. Curatorial work generally is heavily hinged on being able to put together an artistic brainchild of sorts, then entirely relinquish all traces of yourself from it for sake of elevating the people enacting your vision. It is indeed possible for curation to translate into personal celebrity — Hans Ulrich Obrist, for instance, has grown revered in academic and contemporary communities over the years for his hyperactive practice — but more or less, much like the inherent coolness of working in fashion, it is also a positional swagger Sanchez mostly tries to eschew. During the photoshoot, it comes off very early that she is camera shy; for most of the hour we spend walking through Chinatown upon leaving Seward Park, she’s noticeably more interested in giving me a walking tour of her neighborhood than she is in posing for pictures. Yet, at the end of the day, you get a greater portrait of Sanchez in this sense than any photograph can offer: whether she’s offering me a piece of her usual order from a local bakery (a plain bun that’s “really just sweet bread”), randomly stopping a delivery worker who just so happens to be carrying unique magnets she needs for an upcoming show, halting to ogle over intriguing objects in a storefront window, or recounting the (horrendous) first time she shaved her head while we walk across the street from her haircut spot, it couldn’t be more evident that documenting Sanchez means documenting the world around her. 

“Everything’s indebted to other people.”

Sitting with me on a bench outside her apartment as she waits to meet her brother, she’s eager to talk about the work of a conceptual artist she’s showing in Trivial Pursuit. Her retrieval of the magnets from the delivery worker has shifted the topic of conversation from strange insects to a shipping dilemma she’s facing: should she brave a tedious overseas transportation plan that could potentially pool unnecessary expenses? Or should she let two other artists being featured in the show carry it with them on their flights to and from the U.S?

“I think… it would kind of be, like, an easy cop-out,” she says, when I ask why she doesn’t just go with the seemingly easier second option. “I want to show his work that he spent a lot of time on and is most proud of — that is more representative of what he’s about. I would love to show this piece and have people in New York be like Oh shit, this is so cool, I want to work with this person. That’s kind of the goal.”

She pulls up a photo of the piece on her phone, and begins to, much like she did with Hirata and Chrenka’s work at Theta this past December, obsessively nerd out about it to the point where I’m just as geeked by the time she’s finished. She spends a graceful amount of time walking me, an artistically illiterate arts critic, through what jute fibers are, and how they function to grant this work in particular a heightened organic resonance. When you set out to interview Daisy Sanchez, you wind up learning way more about the things she’s interested in than the things that make her interesting. But at the same time, weirdly, it is precisely this that makes her interesting: in an era full of people who love the sound of their own voice, she gets ego boosts from practically every voice but her own. 

Both over email and in person, something Sanchez is quite adamant about is the amount of luck — and, she argues, privilege — that has gone into giving her the position she presently occupies. It’s a theme that has followed her through even the darkest elements of her childhood. She describes herself as having been a somewhat morbid kid growing up, due in great part to a clear-eyed vision of life’s finitude garnered from early on: her father passed away when she was 5 years old, and for much of her youth, she battled a cancer that killed one of her organs. (Sanchez adopted her mother’s surname at 12 years old, as an ode to her single motherhood and as an act of protest against California’s widespread anti-immigration sentiment.)

“I don’t remember a time before cancer. Going to the oncology appointments, it’s always somewhere in the back of your mind… with the type of cancer I had, there’s always a worry that it’s going to come back,” she says. “Every time you go to the doctor, every time you get your blood drawn, there’s always this panic in you that there’s not enough time. That something’s going to happen. It’s always in your head that you’re not really infallible. Just never really having the invincibility thing when you’re a kid — never feeling invincible and always feeling like I want to get the most out of what I can do.”

Still, yet, Sanchez recognizes a fortunate glint even in two of the most devastating events of her life — for one, given that the specific cancer she had just so happened to target an organ that you only need one of, there’s a certain amount of luck present in the fact that she’s here to tell the story. On a second front, before her dad passed, he left a sum of medical expenses that, given that the cancer is now in remission, Sanchez is currently able to use to sustain her career. Yes, there are two alluring wormholes of both depression and guilt that can very easily be tapped into with each case; but embracing a certain mentality is the difference between being chained to that past and turning it into a future. “It’s kind of important to be transparent about stuff like that,” Sanchez says, “and recognize that, ‘okay, I have this immense privilege — what can I do with it? How do I make the most of having a super amazing, lucky shot in life?’”

Many times, the answer to this question is handled selfishly: with incredible sums of influence, large cult followings, and self-made gospels that politicians love to point to as examples of the “American Dream.” As I write this, for instance, Kim Kardashian is under fire for a controversial Variety profile in which she insisted, even more scaldingly in a published video accompaniment, that she had “the best advice for women in business: get your fucking ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days.” Similar storylines are, in a way, the backbone and longtime engine of American pop culture; a fortunate character is crowned a protagonist by a system that thrives on them, and the consistent narrative from that point on becomes one not of utilizing already-present building blocks, but making something out of nothing. The currency is coolness. And more and more over time, coolness is extracted from the idea that someone is entirely responsible for who they are. 

Yet, in Sanchez’s case, none of this — not the coolness, the self-made rhetoric, or the allure of protagonism — is of any substance. Not only does she want to be transparent about what stepping stones brought her to her position, but she wants to use those same stepping stones to elevate the people who didn’t have them. “Everything’s indebted to other people,” she suggests, midway through a thankful spiel about Rines of 56 Henry. “As much as you can try to credit yourself, I feel like for everyone, there’s always people helping you along the way. […] If I didn’t have the opportunity to work with such amazing and smart people, none of this would have ever happened.” Though it’s the last thing she would ever talk about up-front, it becomes quite natural to wonder how many different times Sanchez has been the “amazing and smart” figure that made things happen for someone else.

Much of Sanchez’s pre-collegiate academic career was spent around either weird people, or weird situations. At the San Francisco art school she attended, founded by the storied sculptor Ruth Asawa, her biology teacher sold shrooms to students, there were far more people than chairs, chunks of ceiling would fall clean off every time there was rain, and, due to a senior prank that involved setting it on fire, the girls bathroom was perpetually out of service. At the tiny private school she would go on to attend in New York — for no reason besides the fact that she had arrived too late to go to school anywhere else — most enrolled students had only been there because they were expelled everywhere else they went, her graduating class was comprised of about 25 peers, and the valedictorian had been ousted from three separate institutions. (If it matters to you, two of the expulsions were for drug offenses, and one was for sexual assault. He would go on to attend the University of Pennsylvania.) 

There’s a certain clear-eyed, Cady Heron-esque vision into extreme poles of humanity that such an unconventional experience suggests. Art history is rife with legend stemming from an ability to document such cultural nooks and crannies; whether by means of a paradigm-shifting photo book like Tulsa, or a career-spanning Polaroid practice that serves almost to scream come and obsess over my A-list milieu, curation has transcended the gallery space and become a matter of who can uncover the next hidden truth. Sanchez exists in the niche between observation and recognition that this construct undercuts. To her, the mission is accomplished when a new insight is gained (the sensation of which she dubs “brain pop rocks”), rather than solely when that new insight is appreciated by the public sphere. “Everyone is sitting around doing the same still-life,” she says of her time at the Cooper Union high school program. “But it’s so fucking cool how everyone else is doing it. Of course I was into what I was doing, and it was fun and stuff. But it was just so cool how everyone brought their own viewpoint to it, and articulated it in their own idiosyncratic way. Everyone has a different way of interpreting what they’re seeing.”

“I’m honestly pretty boring tbh.”

For all of the compelling perspectives she spends her days synthesizing, Sanchez is resolute about the notion that her life is not all that interesting. When, for the umpteenth time in our conversation, I suggest to her that her life is a movie, she brings up the late Belgian film director Chantal Akerman. Akerman’s longtime approach was to make viewers hyper-aware of the fact that as they were watching her productions, time was passing. There was no wam-bam-bam sequence of high-energy events, and one was forced to reconcile with the fact that, beyond the inherent bravado of cinema, the same clock was ticking for character and consumer alike.

If Sanchez’s life is a movie after all, it’s directed by Akerman — five hours pass between when I first meet her at Doyers Street and when we part ways at the same spot, and they’re consumed entirely by tasks like grabbing coffee, sitting in a local park, walking through the neighborhood, and meeting her brother. In an early email, upon me asking what the typical day looked like when she wasn’t working at Theta, she revealed to me that on that day in particular, she had flipped through an old catalog, taken notes on an essay, ordered socks, listened to a podcast, cooked a packet of Momofuku instant noodles, played Wordle, and forgotten to pick up her laundry. “Having somewhat of a following on social media isn’t particularly indicative of the excitement of one’s life, or if it is, mine is misleading,” she wrote. “I’m honestly pretty boring tbh.”

It takes a pretty boring person, one can probably conclude, to make the interesting things in life shine that much brighter. Effective curatorial work requires an ability to set oneself aside and cheer from the sidelines, even if you more or less coordinated the spectacle being enjoyed on the field. Sanchez epitomizes the mark of a great curator, as opposed to just a good one: she couldn’t really care less about the field in the first place, let alone being on it. There is no sacrifice felt in suppressing her own brilliance to geek out over that of the people that surround her. No matter what time of day the workers show up to the vineyard, she’s simply happy to see them get their daily bread.

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