Exhibitions | Denise Stewart-Sanabria

Artist: Denise Stewart-Sanabria | Location: Knoxville, TN

Virtual Realities

December 3 - March 12, 2022

Drawings on Plywood

These works are part of a series concentrating on the large-scale representation of contemporary people. Humans give off subtle clues as to the culture and social groupings they inhabit. Most of my reference material comes from observing people at art receptions. The virtual reality concept I focus on is intensified when they are returned, as drawings, to the environment they were found in.

When a group of humans inhabit a space they observe certain territorial rules that govern where they are and what direction they are moving in relation to where others are located. They form predictable geometric patterns that are replicated in everything from the herding and flocking behaviors of other species, to wild seed and plant scatterings, to even star and constellation patterns.

I prefer to use the medium of drawing with charcoal on large sheets of plywood in order to take advantage of graphic monochromatic impact. Its directness lets me concentrate on the human presence of my subjects. I am also able to transform them into three-dimensional inter-related groupings and conceptual dramas by cutting them out with a scroll saw and using wood base locks to make them free standing.


Contemporary Altars of Misappropriated Mythology

Where does mythology originate? Who gets to define and invent it? How much of our older Western Mythology is relevant now, and how would it be updated?

I’m using Byzantine decoration, Faberge egg decoration, Medieval religious altar construction, and 21st century design standards to create secular cultural altars dedicated to who we are and what we value and obsess about.

My approach is deliberately quotidian, from the themes to the materials used. Beauty salons and urban streets are ornamented with both rhinestones and acrylic pellets used in the floral industry. Halos are made from costume jewelry earrings to BB gun copperhead pellets.


Join us for an opening reception on Friday, December 3rd from 6-8PM to enjoy refreshments during the first look at the artwork. The show will be on display through March 12th, 2022 and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11AM-5PM. 

Note: This exhibition finished hanging on March 12, 2022.

Denise Stewart-Sanabria

Knoxville, TN

Denise Stewart-Sanabria was born in Massachusetts and received her BFA in Painting from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. She has lived in Knoxville, TN since 1986. Stewart-Sanabria paints both hyper-realist “portraits” of everything from produce to subversive jelly donuts. The anthropomorphic narratives often are reflections on human behavior.  She is also known for her life size charcoal portrait drawings on plywood, which are cut out, mounted on wood bases, and staged in conceptual installations. She is a recipient of the 2019 Tennessee Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant for her work on wood. Recent solo exhibits include: “Encounters”, at the Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville Alabama, “Virtual Reality”, John P. Weatherhead Gallery, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN, “Quantum Continuum”: Rebecca Randall Bryan Gallery, Coastal Carolina University,  Conway, SC,  and “Another Virtual Reality”, New Harmony Gallery of Contemporary Art at the University of Southern Indiana, and ENCOUNTERS: Denise Stewart-Sanabria, Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL. Her work is included in various museums, private, and corporate collections including: The Tennessee State Museum, The Evansville Museum of Art in Indiana, The Knoxville Museum of Art, The Huntsville Museum of Art,  Notre Dame of Maryland University, Firstbank TN, Pinnacle Banks, Omni and Opryland Hotels, Scripps Networks, Knoxville Botanical Gardens, Jewelry Television, TriStar Energy, the Atlanta Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank/Nashville office, the Aslan Foundation, The Ayers Foundation, and the corporate offices of McGhee Tyson Airport.

Artist Website