New Work: Paintings & Drawings by Denise Stewart-Sanabria

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In New Work: Paintings and Drawings by Denise Stewart-Sanabria, the artist explores humanizing environments that amaze, entertain, and occasionally horrify. If she documented them, literally, she would probably have constant censorship issues. So, she uses food as a standin for humans, making the painting amusing and delicious! Over the years, Denise has had pears enact Inquisition scenes, impaled maraschino cherries on nails, and had donuts enact the seven deadly sins and various fertility rites. Her recent work involves allegorical narratives, driven by historical wallpaper appearing behind iconic contemporary baked goods and candy. A classic, regal French design is paired with a partially devoured Black Forest cake and decomposing flowers, and then appears again behind a King Cake. A classic French pastoral toile print in a decidedly non-traditional color looms above a stack of artificially colored Moon Pies and junk food. A classic Asian toile peopled with Godzilla and his fellow movie monsters sits behind a vast array of candy that does not appear to come from the natural world. Still Lifes, or Vanitas, which is the genre these works most closely fit in with, were originally domestic images containing items symbolic of life and death. The items act out narratives.

Denise Stewart-Sanabria is a Knoxville-based artist, born in Massachusetts, and holds a BFA in painting from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. Sanabria paints 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 installations. She also does custom commissioned work for banks, hotels, corporate offices and homes. Her work is included in many museums, private, and corporate collections including: The Tennessee State Museum, The Evansville Museum of Art in Indiana, FirstBank TN, Pinnacle Financial, Omni and Opryland Hotels, Scripps Networks, Knoxville Botanical Gardens, and the corporate offices of McGhee Tyson Airport.

Click here to see her full portfolio.