Encounters: Denise Stewart-Sanabria

Encounters: Denise Stewart-Sanabria

Grisham Gallery
October 7, 2018 – January 20, 2019

Denise Stewart-Sanabria, Alien Disco Inferno, 2018, oil on canvas, 48 x 66 in.

The latest exhibition in this long-standing showcase for outstanding regional contemporary art focuses on the distinctive work of this celebrated Tennessee artist. Stewart-Sanabria paints hyperrealist “portraits” of everything from animated produce to subversive jelly donuts, often reflecting on human behavior through anthropomorphic narratives. The artist is also known for her life-size figurative drawings on plywood, which are cut out, mounted on wood bases, and staged in conceptual arrangements. A native of Massachusetts, Stewart-Sanabria received her BFA in Painting from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, and has lived in Knoxville since 1986.

Stewart-Sanabria’s signature paintings often feature lifelike fruits, vegetables and desserts seemingly acting out interpersonal dramas, sometimes set against simple monochromatic backgrounds, and other times in front of lush toile-patterned fabrics that depict nature and bucolic life. “I specifically do not label my work as ‘still lifes,’ which I consider an archaic and inaccurate term for what I am creating,” she says. “Still lifes have traditionally been genre paintings of domestic items and food, often with symbolic references attached to them connected with life, death, and survival. What I am doing is pure observation — how the eye perceives my subjects in all their beauty as light hits them, intensifying the color saturation. I am also interested in their ability to create complicated abstract compositions when combined in groups or scattered across the picture plane.”

Stewart-Sanabria describes her large-scale figurative drawings on wood as “simple representations of individual personalities and how people interact in social settings.” The artist bases her works on photographs that she takes surreptitiously at art openings in order to guarantee that the subjects are not acting self-consciously. A garment instructor for the theatre department at the University of Tennessee and versed in scale-model stage layouts, Stewart-Sanabria understands better than most the nuances of human behavior: “When the panels are in a gallery setting, they virtually interact with the live humans that encounter them. The people who live or work around them actually bond with them.”


Gallery Walk and Opening Reception
Sunday, Oct 7, 2018 | 2-4 pm

Gallery Walk: 2 pm
Reception: 3-4 pm
Hosted by HMA Guild

Members: Free | Non-members: Included with general admission


Thank you Sponsors!

Lead Sponsor:

The Kuehlthau Family Foundation

Additional Support:
The Alabama State Council on the Arts
Altherr Howard Design
The Huntsville Museum of Art Guild
2018-10-09T16:36:54+00:00