AIR at 40: 1994 Artist in Residence: Sandra DeSando

By Jenny Zeller

Mac’s Lake (View from the Lodge in the Morning Fog), 13.5” x 20.25”, Pencil drawing on Rives BFK, 1995

New Jersey artist Sandra DeSando, who once solely created realistic pencil and graphite drawings of landscapes, wetlands and other botanical subject matter was Bernheim’s 1994 Artist in Residence. Her work is the result of a childhood spent walking the streams and marshes near her home. It has led to a lifetime interest in science, ecology and developing our part in taking care of our natural resources.

DeSando’s creative practice first comes with photographing the landscape from which she draws finely detailed pencil drawings from the negatives. Her intent with the works created at Bernheim was “to have the viewer feel enclosed by the forest as were the people who walked on the land many, many years ago.

Flowing Stream, Pencil drawing on Rives BFK, 1994



In an artist statement from the early 90’s DeSando stated that she selects subjects on the cusp of morning or evening because “it is easiest at these times to suspend our beliefs and…become part of the transformation of the universe.” Her drawings focus on the earth as a “living cosmos” and often depict wetlands because they are “places of conversion” as the land filters the ground water and air and provides habitat for many species of plants and animals.

Rocky Run: Gargoyle at the Gate, 20.5” x 30”, Pencil drawing on rives BFK watercolor paper, 1994.



DeSando explains the meaning behind the piece inspired by the Rock Run trail pictured left (formally known as Rocky Run):

I think the darkness of the image and that wonderful rock in the stream at the beginning of the trail inspired the title. It was also the first trail I walked at Bernheim. The water and the creative juices flow from this point. The gargle definition of the spout directing the flow rather suits it.”

DeSando has received numerous awards, including a Pollock -Krasner Foundation grant, a Ludwig Vogelstein and an E D Foundation grant to make drawings of American landscapes. She had a solo show at the Newark Museum of Art called Liquid Assets: Oceans Lakes, Ponds and Streams. In addition to Bernheim, DeSando has attended many other residency programs including YADDO, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Djerassi, and a one year residency at the Sharp-Walentas Studio.

DeSando has since added paint, intense color and abstraction to her environmentally inspired artwork.

Changing Light, 13.5″ x 20″ Pencil drawing on Rives BFK watercolor paper, 1994


The above works are on permanent loan and available for viewing in the Photographic Archives at the University of Louisville’s Special Collections.


2020 marks the 40th anniversary of Bernheim’s Artist in Residence program. Established in 1980, this internationally renowned program annually awards artists the opportunity to live and create site-specific work inspired by their total immersion experience at Bernheim. Throughout 2020, we are celebrating the contributions of the program’s past that has allowed our visitors to experience nature in a new way while enhancing awareness of Bernheim’s mission of connecting people to nature.

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