Michael Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson

Michael Brandon Sanderson, M.F.A.


Locklear Hall, 213





Entering his 20th year as a professor and 26th as an artist, Brandon Sanderson is a Professor of Art teaching Printmaking and Drawing at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke.  In 2021 he received the university’s Outstanding Teaching and Outstanding Research Mentor awards.  He also serves as Workshop Coordinator for Frogman's Print Workshops in Omaha, Nebraska, the largest printmaking and papermaking workshops in the United States.   Sanderson holds Bachelors of Science degrees from Colorado State University-Pueblo in Printmaking and Computer Information Systems and the Masters of Fine Art degree in Art with a specialty of Printmaking from the University of South Dakota where he studied under 20th century print and paper artist Lloyd Menard.  

Since 1995, Sanderson has exhibited in over 550 venues in 63 countries. Recently he has shown in Poland, Chile, Bosnia, Uganda, Cambodia, and Colombia.  He has also held 34 university lectures in 25 states and participated in 78 collaborative studio projects.  In 2018 he was the first visiting artist in the West Virginia University Master Printmaking series.  He also is a long-time member of the Artnauts international art group, which uses the visual arts as a tool for addressing global change.  Sanderson’s work appeared in  the nationally acclaimed “Re-Riding History” exhibit, which featured works by 72 contemporary native and non-native artists who responded to the events surrounding the 1875-1878 capture, relocation and imprisonment of 72 Plains Indian warriors at Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida.

In his time at UNCP, he has organized dozens of exhibitions and brought in 51 visiting artists to work with faculty, students and the community.  He was recently awarded a number of grants to use his technical and artistic backgrounds to design and prototype art equipment that is cost-effective and accessible to those with disabilities.   This will be done with laser cutters, CNC machines, 3D printers and traditional workshop metal and wood-working tools. 

Artist Statement

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller

For as long as I can remember, my art work has been based on the interaction of mechanical and organic parts within myself and in the world around me.  Having artificial parts such as pins in a knee and re-constructed inner ears, I found, and still find, the tool, the android, the automaton to be an appropriate symbol of our capacity for alienation, devastation and simultaneously growth and creation.    

Recently that work has grown to focus on my life-long hearing disability and the effect it has on my life experiences.  My hearing ranges from complete deafness to hearing at about half the level of the average working individual.  I read lips to communicate with others – one can imagine how that well that worked with COVID.  It is a situation of attempting to find comfort in discomfort, of accepting what I cannot change, changing what I can and simply pushing through.  As Helen Keller put it: “the experience of trial and suffering”.  I can only benefit from this if I not only accept it, but endeavor to love it.   It is human nature to reject the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable, the painful; yet I’ve learned from my greatest mentors and teachers that meaningful growth comes from embracing and reflecting on suffering.  

And that's what my characters do.  They aren't elegant or graceful – rather the opposite, as if they were hastily reassembled in someone's garage.  They're in survival mode, a constant state of growth and adaptation. Each of them represents a specific situation or amalgamation thereof.  They are not comfortably sequestered with ‘their own’ – they have no safety net, no comfort zone, they must address each moment as it comes and evolve within it.   They must see reality as it is, not as they want it to be.  

Alienation and isolation is another aspect of my work.  Significant hearing loss prevents the individual from participating in the larger community without assistance.  This is often seen as aloofness.  The isolation necessitated by this condition will make a person feel anxious and alone, as if they have no real role or sense of belonging.   One is often treated, regardless of current abilities or record of achievement, as if they have no ability to contribute to society.  This is represented in my work by blank white space or various kinds of chaotic mark making meant to represent persistent tinnitus and bouts of complete deafness.  It is also represented by the various mechanical ‘MacGyverisms’ of the characters, the improvised means of pushing forward.  In summary, my recent work is an exploration of my life-long disability, the psychological impact of it, and the adaptations that I and others have made to continue functioning as a result.