Nature Configurations: The Drawings of Sandra Benny At the Massillon Museum

Sandra Benny, Nature Layers #2, color pigment pencil, 40” x 40″

Inspired by nature, feather collector and internationally renowned artist Sandra Benny is exhibiting her drawings at the Massillon Museum this fall. Her rhythmic still lifes are composed of purposefully placed feathers, flowers, petals, and stems. Etched in richly hued layers of colored pencil, focus is shown on the distinctive qualities of each artifact. “Individual feathers are very intriguing to me. The colors and patterns on each feather are unique. Flaws, acquired in daily life, add character. Centers of flowers are often composed of complex patterns that become focal points of my work. I like to emphasize the unobtrusive parts in nature,” explains Benny.

Her focus on feathers began after moving to New York and collecting feathers on her own. Growing bored with the limited palette of the native birds, Benny collaborated with the Bronx Zoo because of their wonderful ornithology department. After explaining her own fascination with the beauty and significance of such a singular, seemingly inconsequential part of the animal, the ornithology department began to save the fallen feathers of birds from all over the world for Benny. To this day, she still has boxes upon boxes filled with the airy appendages, now put away in storage until they make their way into her art.

It may not immediately register that the artwork is done with colored pencil; she has spent years improving on her skills, giving the thin pencil lines dimension, creating texture and colors that breathe and bloom. Mixing many layers of color pigment directly onto the surface allows for variations and vibrant color mixing along the way to completion. “There’s no one pencil color on any of my work,” said Benny. “All the colors are mixed right on the surface, so they’re made up of layers of many, many colors.”

Cleveland-born, Benny’s parents encouraged her passion for art at a young age by gifting her with drawing classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “I loved every class, learning how to draw, improving my skills,” she said. “I think my biggest love of all was color.” Serendipitously, Benny would later exhibit at the museum in its annual juried exhibition, the May Show, after completing her education at established schools in the area and out of state. In high school she also won a weekend scholarship to the Cleveland Art Institute. Benny received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1966 from Ohio University and the same year she began working as a Creative Designer at the Plain Dealer. Benny went on to continue her education at Northern Illinois University, earning a Master of Art in painting and drawing.

Currently residing in Hudson, Benny relocated back to Ohio after a successful tenure in New York. From 1977 to 2007, Benny held the position of adjunct professor of art specializing in painting, drawing, and 2D design at Long Island University’s C.W. Post campus in Brookville, New York. Having shown extensively throughout the United States and abroad, her works can be found in the public and private collections of notable museums and art collectors. Sandra was featured in the prestigious Who’s Who in American Art.


Reception 5:30–8pm Saturday, October 12 | Studio M

Massillon Museum

121 Lincoln Way, East

Massillon, Ohio 44646