Sanzi Kermes is the progeny of immigrant grandparents (Bohemia and Italy). Her father was a WWII vet who helped liberate the Jews from German concentration camps and was haunted by it throughout his life; her mother was a nurse. She and her twin sister are the youngest of five children. At age seven, Sanzi declared that she wanted to be an artist, but her family was less than enthusiastic, encouraging her to choose a path other than “starving artist.” She complied, pursuing a double major in geography and advertising at Syracuse University.
At age 30, she found her love for art to be starving, so Sanzi enrolled in drawing classes at the Shuler School of Fine Art, a Baltimore studio that holds to traditional training techniques of the Renaissance masters.
In 1995, Sanzi left her job working as a cartographer for an environmental consulting firm after she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She began to focus her energy on an art career, thus beginning a ten-year service as a docent at the Baltimore Museum of Art. During this decade, her life took two extraordinary turns: In 2003, she became a young widow after her husband’s death from brain cancer; in 2005, she and her English partner welcomed a daughter, Sabina. Soon after, Sanzi earned her Master of Art degree in Contemporary Fine Art Practice from Leeds Beckett University, in Leeds, UK. It was there that she first thought about Scrabble as an artistic pursuit.
“I wonder what it would look like to explore the game of Scrabble,” she told her academic advisor. Though it has a finite set of conditions—a 15 by 15 square grid and 100 letters—the permutations are seemingly endless. She told her that she had been documenting every game she played.
Sanzi’s love of language and visual arts has catapulted her work into the current oeuvre of screen prints, letterpress printing, and senryu (a haiku form that is not based in nature). Her work as a cartographer has greatly influenced the art she creates, as the screen prints are reminiscent of the Rectangular Survey System devised by the Land Ordinance of 1785.