Photographer Mike Sanchez will be showing his work at Weekend Four of ArtSpan Open Studios. (Courtesy of the artist)

Artist Mike Sanchez reimagines iconic San Francisco moments to stylish effect

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If you asked San Francisco artist Mike Sanchez whether the city inspires him, then you've probably never laid eyes on his work: It is SF iconography—the classic street cars, the Victorian architecture, the public art, the kooky colors—that lends itself to his most eye-popping pieces.

You could call him a photographer, but that too would miss the mark. Sanchez, who holds a BFA with a focus on photography from the University of New Mexico, take a wider-lens approach to art.


"I feel fortunate to have developed my photography skills during the transition between the film era and the digital," he says. "I learned classic darkroom techniques and how to create within the physical limitations of film, but was also introduced to the enormous potential of using digital photography to create whole new forms of art. Photography could become anything my mind could capture or create."

This genre-busting philosophy is evident in his work. His series Streetcars of San Francisco melds images of those familiar cars with retro-tinged graphic design for a collage-like effect; his photographs of Brian Goggin's Defenestration have the decided quality of surrealistic paintings; and his most current projects give one the sense they are viewing photographs...while macro-dosing LSD.

Perhaps it's inventing that is Sanchez's true craft. From the time he was kid, he was drawn to whatever he could imagine and build, be it Legos or metalwork. So when he relocated to San Francisco and became quickly acquainted with the artist's reality here (hi, restaurant jobs), he had to get crafty to survive before eventually (over two years later) being able to support himself as a full-time artist.

"I've had to get creative with many odd photography and design jobs, and while incredibly challenging, it has also been immensely rewarding to have control over my career, and to craft together my life as an artist," he says.

These days, Sanchez is expanding his work into the three-dimensional realm, experimenting with new materials and building methods (kind of like that kid with the Legos). "Regardless of the medium, the work always comes back to that relationship between perceived environments and the people that inhabit them."

See Sanchez's work for yourself and say hello to the artist at Weekend Four of ArtSpan Open Studios. But first, we subjected him to our Proust-inspired questionnaire. Give it a read below.

"Defenestration #2," by Mike Sanchez

7x7: If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

MS: Keanu Reeves


7x7: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

MS: Modesty


Martini, Margarita or Manhattan?

MS: Margarita, but it better be mezcal and spicy.


7x7: Who are your favorite artists?

MS: The ones that keep innovating


7x7: What is your greatest fear?

MS: Running out of time


7x7: What is your indulgence?

MS: Long rides on trains, subway cars, and streetcars


7x7: Bay Area haunt?

MS: The Nightcap


7x7: How does the Bay Area inspire your work?

MS: I'm inspired by the nonstop interactions of machines, nature, and people of SF.


// Meet Mike Sanchez at Westfield Centre (Level Three, near Bloomingdale's) during Weekend 4 of ArtSpan's Open Studios, 11am to 6pm, Nov. 2-3, artspan.org; mikesanchezphotography.com.

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