Arts and Humanities People and Community

Artist’s life, legacy honored on new USPS postage

The United States Postal Service features Emilio Sanchez, the first Cuban American visual artist to be recognized in a new series of Forever stamps.
Emilio Sánchez (United States [born Cuba], 1921-1999), "Untitled (Ventanita entreabierta)," 1981. Oil and watercolor on paper, 35.625 x 43.375 in. (90.5 x 110.2 cm.). Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami. Gift of the Emilio Sanchez Foundation, 2010.25.2. © Emilio Sanchez.
Emilio Sánchez (United States [born Cuba], 1921-1999), Untitled (Ventanita entreabierta), 1981. Oil and watercolor on paper, 35.625 x 43.375 in. (90.5 x 110.2 cm.). Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami. Gift of the Emilio Sanchez Foundation, 2010.25.2. © Emilio Sanchez.

As a Cuban American teacher of architectural history at the University of Miami, Victor Deupi was immediately captivated when he first learned about artist Emilio Sanchez while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art several years ago.

“I had never heard of him until then, and before you know it, I began my research on Sanchez which inspired me to create a larger-than-life project that opened me to so many different opportunities,” recounted Deupi.

Recently, Deupi was thrilled to find out that more people will get the opportunity to learn about this relatively unknown artist after the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced its Summer 2021 launch of a new series of Forever stamps dedicated to Sanchez on the centennial anniversary of his birth in 1921. The commemoration of his work is a significant milestone because no other Cuban visual artist has been honored in this manner. 

“This is a tremendous accomplishment, particularly given how long he had been unrecognized by the art community. It’s a wonderful honor on many fronts because it gives so many voices to people of different races and ethnic backgrounds,” explained Deupi.

The University lecturer, who recently published a book on the artist, said that Sanchez, who passed away in 1999, was a much more complex artist than has been previously noted.

“He was really one of the leading figures of the mid-century to travel throughout the Caribbean and Latin America where he heavily documented indigenous cultures, architectural landscapes, and daily life at that time. Sanchez was at the forefront of capturing the urban changes happening,” Deupi pointed out.

Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of the School of Architecture, is also delighted that Sanchez is getting the recognition he deserves. “I’m thrilled to see Professor Deupi’s scholarly work resonate beyond the academic sphere. His book not only shines a discerning light on the richness of Cuban American culture, but it also elevates the School of Architecture, his home at UM, with relevant and impactful scholarship,” said el-Khoury.

Equally significant is the fact that one of the four stamps being issued reproduces a work in the Lowe Art Museum’s permanent collection, Untitled (Ventanita entreabierta).

“It’s a wonderful work that displays a semi-open window in shadows. There’s a mystery as to whether you’re looking in or if someone is looking out. The image engages the viewer in a way that is so simple and fundamental,” said Deupi. “I suspect this work will be circulated via the stamps by millions of Americans for the next several years.”

Nathan Timpano, graduate director of the Department of Art and Art History, is another faculty member who has studied the work of Sanchez. He believes this announcement will help solidify the University and greater South Florida community as a hub for Cuban American art and culture.

“This is an opportunity for Miami to flourish a reputation as a city that has been founded on a really rich Cuban and Latin American diaspora culture,” explained Timpano. “I would hope that this will attract scholars into our city and onto our campus to begin to really research and explore the unique art scene that Miami has to offer.”

Jill Deupi, director of the Lowe Art Museum, said it is an honor to hold some of Sanchez’s works of art in the museum’s permanent collection. “We are thrilled. Only a very few images are selected for USPS stamps each year, so the inclusion of our Sanchez painting is highly prestigious,” she said. “We are proud that the Lowe and the University are going to be so well and widely represented.”  

According to Jill Deupi, this commemoration is significant because Sanchez’s art is now more widely known and appreciated, rather than a niche interest. “This is a great milestone for Caribbean and Cuban American art and a point of pride for not only the community, but for all South Floridians and those who have a connection to the University and the Lowe Art Museum,” she said.

Timpano, who is fascinated with revisionist art history, thinks this is the perfect example of how he can teach students about this form of teaching about art that aims to reveal artists from the past.

“Sanchez is the perfect example of how revisionist history can really bring a voice to an artist that deserved to have a voice long ago. I think we’re only going to see more written about him and learn more about his contribution to modern art moving forward,” said Timpano. “I tell my students that it’s important to mine the archives and do personal research to recover those names in history that have been forgotten. This shows how impactful research can be for the future of learning.”