“My mother used to tell this story about when I was four and I would cut out flowers that I drew and put them on bobby pins to make earrings.” With such an imagination, it’s no wonder that Sandra Nardone has experimented with various artistic media throughout her life. From running her own business creating and selling porcelain dolls on Fifth Avenue in New York City, to publishing her own book – through her artistic ventures she always seems to gravitate back to painting.
“I painted for a while until my husband died and he was my great influence so it was hard to get back to painting.” Eventually Sandra did pick up a paintbrush again after remarrying and finding her creative spark in her new Virginia home. For Sandra, inspiration takes many forms but at the forefront is her love to travel. She uses photographs from her travels for inspiration first, then will put brush to canvas. The process can take anywhere from a week to months before completion.
Most recently, Sandra’s passion for travel and photography led her into a yearlong project about immigration. “There was a lot of discussion about immigration, and I decided to research my late husband’s Italian Heritage. I found information about his grandfather and his arrival on Eillis Island in 1914. There were lots of pictures of immigrants, many of them Italian and it moved me to do a series of 24 immigrant portraits.” Sandra compiled the portraits she painted alongside the original photographs and published the book Ellis Island Immigrants: Faces of America. “People get really excited when they see pictures that remind them of their parents or grandparents.” The book has since been featured in various exhibitions across the country and received many accolades.
A self proclaimed jack of all trades, Sandra plans to continue experimenting with new techniques until she is spurred by another project. Through her artistic journey, she has learned to trust your gut and just go for it. “I always think what is the worst-case scenario if I just go for it? Usually the benefits outweigh the risk and it’s so rewarding.”