Friday, December 4, 2015

Commission for a Stage Design

Double Portrait on Plywood

I recently did a double portrait commission on plywood for a stage setting that would be used for the Jack C Massey Leadership Awards event in Nashville this December. The recipients didn't want to go up on the stage, so the people planning the event found a way to have their presence on the stage in the form of a double plywood portrait.
Jim and Janet Ayres   charcoal and pastel pencil on plywood/detail in process
Jim and Janet Ayres   charcoal and pastel pencil on plywood 70"H x38"W x 24"D

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Solo Exhibit at Elizabeth Holden Gallery/ Warren Wilson College

Quantum Confusion at Elizabeth Holden Gallery/ Warren Wilson College

Nov. 2- Dec. 12, 2015

When a gallery has access to a scissor lift, installation will be easy
 My Quantum Physics conceptual installation Quantum Confusion has been re-invented at Elizabeth Holden Gallery at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. I've deconstructed, changed, and added to this piece over a couple of years, and it is always different. The full scale charcoal on plywood drawings I produce are intended to be very flexible modular units, ready at a moment to be staged in any setting that demonstrates an idea or behavioral situation. 
Warren Wilson is a small college with an unimaginably gorgeous campus in rural east Asheville, NC, and has an excellent vegan dining commons and primo coffee shop. My time there was indulgent.
The exhibit also included class room involvement. (I always hope that the students get good marks on what they've written when this happens). I got to spend time talking to students and discussing my process. I brought in sketchbooks, and the battered remains of the marquette I made for the guide for how to construct this work, which involves hanging two sheets of 4' x 8' plexiglass from the ceiling to act as a portal for the multi-verse setting.
My battered marquette for Quantum Confusion.
Front view
side view
detail of plexiglass portal section

Friday, November 13, 2015

Upcoming Exhibit Inclusion/Drawing Discourse 2016, UNCA

7th Annual Drawing Discourse

University of North Carolina at Asheville,  S. Tucker Cooke Gallery
People # 49, 50, 51 charcoal and pastel pencil on plywood

People # 49, 50, 51 detail/ charcoal and pastel pencil on plywood

I'm excited to announce my three person plywood grouping People 49, 50, 51, will be in the 2016 international drawing exhibit Drawing Discourse, held at the S. Tucker Cooke Gallery at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. The exhibit will run from Jan. 15th - Feb. 12th.

Esteemed juror, Edgar Jerins, will be present and open the exhibition with a lecture about his practice from 5-6 PM in Humanities Lecture Hall on January 15, 2016; Drawing Discourse opening reception will be immediately following.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Drawing Closer: Ink and Wood at Vanderbilt University

                              Drawing Closer: Ink and Wood
Denise Stewart-Sanabria, Ellen Wiener, and LB Thompson
Sarratt Gallery, Vanderbilt University, Sept. 1- Oct 2 2015
Vanderbilt University’s  Sarratt Gallery will host a dynamic drawing and written word collaborative installation by New York artist Ellen Wiener, LB Thompson poet , and Knoxville, Tennessee artist Denise Stewart-Sanabria. Wiener’s pen and ink 7.5’ x 24’ panoramic drawing Longhand Forest, and the corresponding dramatic poem sequence, Fibonacci Monstrosity, by Thompson, will be housed with the full-scale figurative plywood drawings by Stewart-Sanabria.
Wiener’s Longhand Forest is a story wall drawing of dense and detailed woodland, designed to be inhabited by the creatures of a vast classical bestiary described in Thompson’s poem. The line counts in Fibonacci Monstrosity are based on the mathematical sequence in which each number is the sum of the previous two numbers. The Brooklyn Rail described their installation saying, “Chaos and mystery flow through both of these worlds where rivers of science, legend, archeology, myth, and divine comedy converge.” The text and forest interplay is intended to launch the viewer off the densely inked edge into imagined space. Contemplating this space along with the viewers will be Stewart-Sanabria’s full-scale, virtual reality plywood people.
Stewart-Sanabria’s life sized charcoal drawings on plywood depict people in various conceptual situations. They are placed within an environment in both observational and interactive groupings. Many of them emerge or partially disappear into walls, as if the surrounding architecture is Quantum Theory multi-verse portals. The human presence is intended to show an attempted civilizing of the bestial, natural world of which humans are often reluctant to acknowledge they are a part of.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Flood Averted in Studio-what I learned and what I did right

 Hopefully Helpful Educational Post
I had the water line from the street main to the house fail for the third time in 25 years yesterday. It happened 6 years ago to the day, Thank you Hiller Happy Face Plumbing, for not replacing ALL the parts that time. The original connector from the 1st geyser was still there and blew off. My main studio is a 900 foot basement through the block wall where it blew. This is the 1st time water leaked in.
Drying out corner under storage, and 2 big Ampersands. Got unused canvases and other stuff up on 2" x 2''s now!

What I did right: I trust nothing and am always checking things. This comes in handy. I was due to leave the house in 30 minutes to drive 3 hours to Nashville to meet with the gallery, clients, and to install work at Vanderbilt University's Sarratt Gallery. I went down to the studio to look around, and listen to see if my amazing dehumidifier had shut off so I could empty it. I didn't hear the dehumidifier but heard a noise like running water-right where the water enters the house on the studio wall. I walked over and stepped in a puddle. Water was gathering in a large corner. I know what that means.

I own a main valve turn key tool (bought after the geyser)- the only thing you can turn off your street main with. (it's cheap to buy) I turned it off with one yank- and called the utility.

When we 1st bought the house, I applied water-proof sealant to every inch of those walls before I sheet rocked them over. I'm sure this has protected us. I also have tough industrial tile on the floor. Ironically, where I installed at Vanderbilt was a spot deep underwater during the Nashville Flood. They USED to have hardwood. Now they have tile.

I ran back down in the studio to salvage. A huge pile of finished work was in the leak corner- all unharmed because it was stored up on 2" x 2" wood scraps. I always store finished and in-process paintings on the wall or up on easels. All large plywood work and stored work is on blocks and smaller is up in boxes on shelves. A mixed media commission was flat on the floor, but not near the water. I slid sheets of extra lumber and blocks under it. Unplugged electrical outlets.

What I did wrong: New canvases and panels I store on the floor, still wrapped in plastic packaging. I moved them out of the water, thinking they were fine before I took off. All but one did leak, I found out the next day. Manufacturer packaging leaks. I'm hoping once the edges that got wet dry they will be ok. The Ampersands look iffy and lumpy.The ones I left in the store bag were fine, though. I will now: Keep all new stuff in the store bags, AND put up on blocks. I put the small ones in a box, and will drop that box in a big bag. Also lost- huge box of mat board and archival foam core. In the trash. Should have kept in the big bags Jerrys slide them in. My nice mat cutter didn't seem to soak up any water-good thing. Not sure what it's made of.

If you've lived through hurricanes stuff like this is familiar, but how often do you think you'll get flooded for no apparent reason? This is the 1st time water got in from the street connection incidents. I did have a toilet connection fail right over a storage area once that I caught when there was already one inch of water on the floor. It was leaking right over it, BUT I cover the storage bins with plastic sheeting to keep out sawdust. That was luck.

All this happens in a random house built in 1990. I thought I was an anomaly, but other people I know have had the same thing happen with the same frequency. I know others whose house was attacked by washing machines. I also know Katrina victims, but there was no turning that one off.

SO! Stand in your studio and look around- especially if it is under ground floor. You can store stuff better, probably. Be paranoid and go for it. That one guy from Hiller might have installed YOUR main line, too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Commission for Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum

I was commissioned to do a three person charcoal on plywood drawing for the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum to coincide with the opening of their new visitor's center. The subjects of the drawing are members of the Howell family, who ran a nursery on the site for generations, and enabled this land to come into public ownership as a park for the education and enjoyment of the citizenry.

The park is several acres of terraced gardens, walkways, and the Center for Urban Agriculture, designed to equip and educate local communities for cultivating healthy produce and sustainable lifestyles.

J. Joe Howell, Mary Lester Howell, Jenny Howell Jukes - charcoal on plywood
It is fantastic to do a piece of public art concentrating on honoring people pursuing a life that is truly noble. The production of the plant life that enables us to be the civilized species we attain to be is what the Howells spent their life doing. Digging in the dirt to produce life. The fact that I drew them on wood further demonstrates the world they lived in. The drawings will continue to wander around the park, from the main building where the offices are, and back to the visitor center for appropriate events.
J. Joe in progress
Early study for Jenny Howell Jukes
Anna Ford, patron of the project and Interim Director, sets up Joe and Mary
Knoxville City Mayor Madeline Rogero speaks at the opening ceremony. In front to the left is Governor Haslam, and first chair on the right is County Mayor Tim Burchett.
The staff gave my people terrific props for the opening of this really gorgeous building.
Photo opps
Jenny Howell Jukes was known for watering her gardens while sitting in a lawn chair!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2016 Exhibit at Carolina Coastal University

 I'll be having an exhibit in March 2016 at Rebecca Randall Bryan Art Gallery at Carolina Coastal University in Conway, South Carolina. It will be an installation of my figurative plywood drawings with a Quantum Physics Multi-verse conception. More info as I get it!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Art of the South": Wayne White and Number create an exhibit

Art of the South  2015 

May 20 – July 31
Memphis College of Art
Hyde Galleries

477 South Main
M–F, Noon–5pm
Sat, Noon–7pm
We headed down to Memphis for the opening reception of Art of the South 2015. I needed to pick up a rather large artifact for a commissioned piece on the way, so we made a detour off I-40 to load it in the van.  Predictably, I saw something cool on the way. I was hoping it was an adult book store or something else of a scandalous nature, but we had already passed one of those, so figured there is only so much call for that business plan. It was only a thrift store in a zebra striped trailer on a gravel road. Only as in "only one".  With pink trim. You can't find these just anywhere.
Knoxville had a definite presence in Art of the South, which is pretty cool since the regional exhibit was open to artists from Florida to Texas. Knoxville artists Brian and Carri Jobe just happened to come to the reception, talking about their new project, Locate Arts. (Brian, below, with the papers in hand). It is a very cool project- I'm excited about it.
This exhibit was put together by the independent arts publication Number , which covers Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi, and occasionally Northern Alabama. It is a fantastic regional art publication based in Memphis that has been in publication for over 25 years. (Yes, I often write reviews for them-since I think 2007. A couple of computers ago. My connection to them was in no way connected to me being in the exhibit, though. Is this a disclaimer?)
You never know where people come from during receptions- there were a bunch from New York I met that were hanging around with my plywood drawings. I swear, I should have brought my real camera. Even iPhone pics can be rather blurry at night. Just for that, I think I'll post a better
pic of my piece below the gallery image:
People # 49, 50 charcoal and pastel pencil on plywood
Denise Stewart-Sanabria People # 49, 50 charcoal and pastel pencil on plywood, better pic

Gary Monroe of Knoxville had one of his huge new Comedy County Cocke series drawings selected.
Briena Harmening, an MFA recipient from UT Knoxville, now living in Nashville, had one of her crochet text pieces there.
Shana Kohnstamm, another UTK grad living in Nashville makes amazing felted sculptures. This one is based on a species of shrimp that is more scorpion than anything else. 
Kohnstamm “Aculeus”
Wool, wire, carnelian, garnet, glass beads, acrylic polymer.
11″ x 11″ x 6″
Shana and I hung around talking about materials and paper making with Arkansas artist, professor, and farmer Melissa Cowper-Smith. She grows her own cotton that she creates hand-made paper with. Really awesome, super organic looking paper.
Cowper-Smith Porch Fire, 2015, Digital print on homegrown and homemade cotton paper, 18 x 24 inches
You can't have an exhibit of Southern regional art without a Herb Williams crayon sculpture-this one suspended.
I really really like this- the idea was amazing and yes, people thought they were some kind of stone. Noooo- found erasers!
Barb Bondy: Value ll: 42 Found Erasers in the Scale of Grey
A couple more pieces I really liked, below. If you are familiar with the juror, Wayne White (bio below), you can really see the connection between the work selected and his own passions!
Andrew Blanchard  Dixie Totem Vlll  Screen print
Bethany Taylor  Sleeping Through the Dream  unwoven WalMart American flag blanket

Wayne White is an American artist, art director, illustrator, puppeteer, and more. Born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Wayne has used his memories of the South to create works for film, television, and the fine art world. A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Wayne traveled to New York City where he worked as an illustrator for the East Village Eye, New York Times, Raw Magazine, and the Village Voice. In 1986, Wayne became a designer for the hit television show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and his work was awarded with three Emmys. In Los Angeles Wayne continued to work in television and designed sets and characters for shows such as Shining Time Station, Beakman’s World,Riders In The Sky, and Bill & Willis. He also worked in the music video industry, winning Billboard and MTV Music Video Awards as an art director for seminal music videos including The Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Tonight, Tonight’ and Peter Gabriel’s ‘Big Time.’
More recently, Wayne has created paintings and public works that have been shown all over the world. His most successful works have been the world paintings featuring oversized, three-dimensional text painstakingly integrated into vintage landscape reproductions. The message of the paintings is often thought provoking and almost always humorous, with Wayne pointing a finger at vanity, ego, and his memories of the South. At Rice University he built the world’s largest George Jones puppet head for a piece called ‘Big Lectric Fan To Keep Me Cool While I Sleep.’ In 2012, Filmmaker Neil Berkeley chronicled Wayne’s art and adventures in the irreverent and joyful documentary film, Beauty is Embarrassing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

"Knoxville Now" at Tipton Gallery, ETSU

 Knoxville Now at Tipton Gallery, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN

People # 2,3,4  charcoal and pastel pencil on plywood  44" x 43" x 4"
The ETSU Department of Art & Design and Slocumb Galleries in partnership with the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville and Urban Redevelopment Alliance present ‘Knoxville Now’ from June 4 to 25, 2015, at the Tipton Gallery. The exhibition features 35 current work in various media by Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville members curated for the Blue Plum Music and Arts Festival in Downtown Johnson City. The public reception is on June 5th, First Friday from 5 to 8 PM, the exhibit may be viewed during the festival weekend on June 6 & 7 from 12 to 5 PM.

For the third year in a row, the Arts & Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville is proud to partner with a community-based art gallery in the Southeast for the purpose of promoting local artists within each community. “Similar to the Alliance, the Tipton Gallery promotes and supports regional artists through rotating exhibitions and educational opportunities for the community,” says Liza Zenni, Executive Director of the Arts & Culture Alliance. “While many of our artist members are well known here in the Knoxville area, we want Johnson City to be exposed to their work, and we look forward to Johnson City artists receiving extra exposure here in Knoxville.”

Following the Alliance’s annual Members Show at the Emporium this past December, Karlota I. Contreras-Koterbay, Director of Tipton and Slocumb Galleries at East Tennessee State University, selected works to travel to Johnson City. Artists included in the exhibition are: Elaine Barnes, Yvonne Bartholomew-Thomas, Mark Bender, Ryan Blair, Bruce Bunting, Antuco Chicaiza, Claudia Dean, Mary Dodge, Brandon Douglas, Marty Elmer, Judi Gaston, Terina Gillette, Marta Goebel-Pietrasz, Carl Gombert, Jerry L. Hagaman, Hannah C. Holder, Kathy Holland, Julie Jack, Barbara Johnson, Diana Kilburn, Kate McCullough, Roy McCullough, Sharon B. Monett, Gloria Nelson, John Patterson, Elizabeth Porter, Julie Rabun, Norma Riegle, Mary Ruden, Dennis Sabo, Jenny Snead, Denise Stewart-Sanabria, Robert H. Thompson, Coral Turner, and Lida Rice Waugh.

In exchange, the Arts & Culture Alliance will present an exhibition of works by Faculty of the Department of Art & Design at East Tennessee State University at the Emporium from August 7 to 29, 2015. The Tipton Gallery is located at 126 Spring Street in downtown Johnson City. Gallery hours are June 6 and 7 (Saturday-Sunday), from 12 to 5 PM during the Blue Plum Music & Arts Festival (, Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m., and by appointment.  For more information about Tipton Gallery or to schedule a visit, please call (423) 483-3179, email or visit
Location Information:
Tri-Cities/Community - Tipton Gallery

Friday, May 8, 2015

ArtFields 2015 and Dancing With Bill Murray

ArtFields is a major Southeastern Regional based on the Grand Rapids experiment, Art Prize.  The purpose of these non-profit experiments is for a community to hold a major fine art event with a massive amount of award money, and to see how this builds the city's relationship with the rest of the art world, and also how it enriches the host community in both fiscal and cultural ways. ArtPrize is international, and gives out over a half million dollars in awards to artists. They don't pre-jury the artists, so it is more of a free-for-all. ArtFields, held in Lake City, SC, pre-juries, leading to an overall higher quality result. They give out $110,000.00 in awards. The pure gallery venues are pop-up galleries located in empty store fronts, beautifully renovated tobacco warehouses, and the event's personal gallery. The integrated art venues are in the town's stores, restaurants, barber shops, salons, library and museum spaces. 
This is the 2nd Year I've been a part of it! I blogged last year, too.
Lake City Main Staging for performance. And dancing with Bill Murray
I was present for the last 2 days of the  total nine days of performance, community participation events, and artist events and parties. The town center is easily walkable, so it's an easy day to hit every venue.
Riding the Big Gun charcoal and pastel pencil on plywood, ceramic, paper  44' x 6' x 5"
My work, above, Riding the Big Gun, was once again in the ROB, a massive and beautifully renovated tobacco warehouse. It has the architecture to hang heavy suspended work from it's rafters, and some of the largest installations and individual pieces.
Mediate by Leah Cabinum  re-purposed magazines
 Occupation/Reconstruction  Power Company Collaboration  performance
The building was also ideal for performance. 
I like humor in work. Some people don't quite get how serious it is.
Lake Norman by Stacey Davidson   photograph
Some of the best venues were empty store fronts. I'm not sure if they had great lighting to begin with, or if it was added.
Bale by Susie Ganch  found trash, installation photography  $1,000 winner
The ArtFields official gallery space, below, that is used year round, the Carter Jones Gallery, was particularly impressive.
Jim Arendt installation, foreground, Aron Belca painting, center rear ( $,1,000 winner)
I think the best private building setup, 2nd year running, is Jarrito's Mexican restaurant. Yes, the "gallery" below is their banquet room. Venue owners get dibs on what work they want, and there is definate evidence of what type of work they relate to in various places.
Jarrito's had to go after the Catholic humor, below. I want that painting.
St. Francis Expelling the Demons From the San Francisco MOMA, Homage to Giotto, by Wilfred Spoon, painting on panel
How the various clothing stores worked art into their spaces could be very cool. Below, Mosaic clothing store.
Der Hund Frisst by Matt Horick, foreground, Sunrise, Sunset by Star Trauth, wall
The two pieces below were in Seven Boutique and Monogramming. I loved the ironing board mono prints. Such a cool idea. Roberto loved the truck.
Three Sisters, by Terri Dowell-Dennis   walnut ink prints
Rusty  by Judy Verhoeven  3D recycled paper collage
I really liked the old parking lot in front of the ROB building and played cell phone app with it.
The event had lots of great events scheduled. The champagne and dessert reception for artists was right before the award ceremony at the performance stage, but it was in the lobby of a new boutique hotel a few blocks away. At one point, people began to receive photo texts from friends taking selfies with Bill Murray near the stage. I never saw him, but my friend Kathy Holland of Oak Ridge, TN, who was also exhibiting managed to find him- AND dance with  him. Let me quote her "Nyeh nyeh!  I touched Bill Murray! Nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh!!  Then I danced with Bill Murray!"