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Sánchez, Juan Félix  

Susanna Temkin

(b San Rafael de Mucuchíes, nr. Mérida, May 16, 1900; d San Rafael de Mucuchíes, Apr 18, 1997).

Venezuelan sculptor, furniture designer, weaver, and architect. He was self-taught as an artist. After various odd jobs including puppeteer, baker’s assistant, and clown, he learned to weave on a loom, making traditional blankets, and later hats (see Grupo Cinco 1982, 143–147). In 1935 he carved his first sculptural group representing Christ, the Virgin, and Mary Magdalene (untraced). In 1943 Sánchez moved from San Rafael to El Potrero. There, in 1946, he constructed the only loom in Venezuela with three heddles. In 1952 he began the construction of the Complejo de El Tisure, located in an immense isolated valley near Mérida. His major life’s work, this artistic and religious center included various chapels, shrines, and sculptural ensembles conceived and hand-built by Sánchez. Driven by a seemingly atavistic religious mysticism, Sánchez’s uniquely individual artistic vision can be compared with Antoni Gaudí.

Located near the Complejo de El Tisure’s arched stone entrance, a rough-hewn small shrine adorned with sea shells and corals was created in ...