Who Is That Naked Lady? A Quest to Find Sandra

By Ronja Boer

Illustration by Sabine Besson

Is there an object or place in the dorms you would like to know the origin of, or do you think it is worth writing about? Let us know here!

A prominent part of the AUC student experience is the dorms, where all of the university’s students reside. Over the ten years since AUC was founded, hundreds of students have passed through the dorm hallways. Rooms have been passed down generations, with many alumni leaving legacies behind, big and small. These legacies speak to the uniqueness of our bubble. They show students’ creativity, liveliness and most of all the fun they have. They are what makes AUC a special community.

Even more remarkable: the generations of students that have gone have made the origins of the legacies lost in time. Do you know who stuck those stickers on your door? Who decided to hang a collage of album covers in your common room? Who built that ingenious bed/closet installation in your room? These are some of the questions this series will find answers to, along with discovering the personal stories of AUC alumni who somehow left their mark on the dorms.

Apartment 1894, a four person room on the 4th floor, is one I visit regularly. For one, this is where most of The Herring’s meetings take place. When walking into the living room one thing stands out immediately: a big wooden panel with a beautiful naked woman painted on it, standing on a blue couch in the middle of the room. ‘Who made that?’ I asked during my first visit. Nobody knew.

Jessica Mehta, a third year Humanities student, has lived in the apartment since Christmas break 2019/2020. All she knows is that the panel was always there, in the middle of the room, and that her name is Sandra. “The group chat with my previous roommates was called ‘Go Sandra!’, and one day I just asked ‘who is Sandra?’’ Turns out that was the name given to the naked woman in their living room who has become a staple piece of the apartment. When new students moved into the apartment last summer Mehta was sure to tell them one thing: Sandra has to stay in this spot. Where Sandra comes from, who she is, who made her and why are all unknown to Mehta. She merely fantasizes. Was she a regular student? An old tenant? Is her face unfinished on purpose? Why is her name Sandra?

Fortunately, I was able to find at least one of these answers. Mehta brought me into contact with Sara Duroy, a previous tenant, via an old roommate. Duroy graduated AUC in 2018 and lived in the room before Mehta did. When I message her, she replies that they ‘adopted’ the painting and called her ‘Sandra’. “We just randomly agreed that that was her name!” Duroy writes. Sadly, when it came to the other questions I had she and her old roommates could only wonder, just like Mehta, who Sandra was and why she was left there.

Duroy only lived in the room for a year, but she brought me in touch with Egle Budreviciute. Budreviciute lived in 1894 from 2017 until her graduation in 2019. Sandra appeared one day in the living room while Budreviciute lived there. She quickly responds: “I actually don’t know where Sandra came from. But if you reach out to Liss Hansen on Facebook she might!”

That sounded promising. Hansen was easily found. She gave me the name of someone she believed painted Sandra saying, “she graduated in 2018 I think.”

After three days of looking, I eventually managed to find this person, too. This painter was surprised her painting was still there, though admitted its size and weight might have had something to do with that. When I asked if I could mention her by name in this article, she said she was not sure. After further questioning she explained: It is a self portrait

For this reason, I will refer to her as Sandra, as this seems most fitting. Sandra tells me both her parents are painters, and that she has painted a self portrait every year since she was eight. “I am always interested in seeing how people evolve over time,” she says, “This painting is the portrait from 2017.”

When asked more about her choices for this particular painting of herself, Sandra shares a personal story. “I remember deciding to do a giant nude because I was having some body image issues at the time and thought if you can see yourself, life size for who you truly are, then maybe you’ll be able to accept yourself as you are.” She used two large spare wooden panels as a canvas and started painting. On why she left out the hands and face, Sandra explains that she usually disappears in her own world when she paints and that she therefore does not have a great memory of the process. However, she does say that when painting, you often purposefully avoid those things you are not ready to tackle yet. “I just realized that the one from 2018 also doesn’t have a face, or a head for that matter,” Sandra writes, “though it does have hands.”

When Sandra graduated in 2018 she posted in the AUC Facebook group, asking if anyone wanted the painting. Hansen replied and was the one who brought it to room 1894, where Sandra herself never lived. The idea that her painting is still loved in the dorms excites Sandra now. “I’m so happy she has a home and a name: Sandra!”

Though Sandra is not the painter’s real name, Mehta does not think they will change the name of the painting. When I visited Mehta and her roommates after having discovered Sandra’s origin, they doubted whether they should even know the story, since it could break the mystery surrounding the portrait. However, after hearing Sandra’s story anyway, they were all excited to finally know. Mehta and her roommates have invited Sandra over for dinner. Unfortunately, since she does not live in the Netherlands, Sandra has had to decline for now. If she ever does decide to pay a visit to Amsterdam, the door of room 1894 is widely open.

Find the first part of the series here:

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