November brings the return of the work of Denise Stewart-Sanabria to the walls of Tomato Head. In summer of last year, Denise exhibited a collection of Vanitas – still-life paintings that treat domestic imagery in symbolic terms, often as images of death and change. Denise’s exhibit included many large format and food centric compositions that posed some challenging questions about food. This artist’s work is thoughtful and thought provoking.
That’s equally true of her current exhibit which primarily focuses on Stewart-Sanabria’s Contemporary Mythology
Altars but also includes some small scale plywood people drawings – a small version of a form that she also creates in life-like proportion.
From a purely visual point of view, the altars, of which there are 2 types, are a fascinating collection of materials. According to the artist, “The large ones are wood drawings on hand built altar frames with other media ranging from objects embedded in resin to gold leaf. The smaller ones are cut paper drawings in hand built wood altars with mixed media and added bling.”
But the collection of materials in these compositions isn’t the result of a shopping spree at a craft store. She says that, “I collect stuff wherever I am. Detritus. Most of it procured legally.” The variety of the components bring a lovely textural variation to the work as well as adding a sense of depth – visually and otherwise.
For the artist, this series of work is rooted in observations about our culture, and, perhaps, our value systems, too. These altars, she says, “are all figurative, and focus on either contemporary culture or how the past effects contemporary culture.”
At times, as in her previous exhibit, the work may incite challenging self-reflection. These altars, though they may feature some variant of Classical imagery, also touch contemporary life – not always comfortably. Denise wonders: “Would contemporary temples to Aphrodite be beauty salons? Would modern versions of ancient water gods visit Tennessee tourist waterfall sites? Is Dionysus worshipped during exhibit openings where wine seems to be an equal draw with the art?”
Denise Stewart-Sanabria exhibits her work regularly in Knoxville and Nashville as well as all around the country from Chicago Heights’ Union Street Gallery to the Florida State Museum of Fine Arts in Tallahassee. You can find it at the Market Square Tomato Head in downtown Knoxville now through December 4th. She will then exhibit at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from December 5th, 2016 through January 2nd, 2017.