Wine, food and ‘donuts behaving badly!’

Haha. This oil painting is titled “Sloth: Donuts behaving badly.” I love it! It’s a sample of the work of Denise Stewart-Sanabria, this year’s featured artist at the Knoxville Museum of Art’s L’Amour du Vin weekend. She showed her art during a slideshow at Blackberry Farm.

The Knoxville Museum of Art’s hugely successful L’Amour du Vin fundraiser has come and gone (more on that in a later post), but one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend every year is what’s called the “Artist’s Luncheon.”

Always held on the Friday prior to the fundraiser itself, it offers an opportunity to meet the featured artist each year. My friend Dawn Ford and I have made it a tradition to knock off work that day and head to Blackberry Farm for some daytime drinking and a bit of culture. Not to mention the food, of course.

Artist Denise Stewart-Sanabria discusses her art prior to lunch.

This year’s featured artist was Denise Stewart-Sanabria. Born in Massachusetts, she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in painting from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. But she’s lived in Knoxville most of her adult life — since 1986. She was a recipient last year of the Tennessee Arts Commission Individual Artist grant for her work on wood. But my favorite works of hers are the colorful oil paintings of food and other inanimate objects.

“The food says so much about human culture,” she said. “Donuts are very voluptuous!”

Stewart-Sanabria, whose work is included in various museums, private and corporate collections, said her father was an antiques dealer and, as she was growing up, she often used his furniture as models in her work. Then she moved to mannequins. And now, food. Marshmallow “Peeps” and Moon Pies figure prominently in some of her whimsical pieces, but fruits, vegetables and pastry seem to be the stars. Anyway, read on for a look at one of the best lunch breaks I’ve taken recently!

Lexus of Knoxville was the presenting sponsor of L’Amour du Vin (translation: “love of wine”) and one of its cars was “wrapped” in the image of one of the featured artist’s paintings. Clever.

Server Leah Polinski greeted guests with refreshing blood orange white wine spritzers.

David Butler, executive director of the Knoxville Museum of Art, with art patron Jackie Wilson.

Here are Wendy Seaward, left, and Tirizia Saziru looking festive.

Blair Hyatt Skaggs, left, and Anne Anderson enjoying the spritzers.

What a great necklace Britt McPhail is wearing. Perfect for an art event!

John Schlichting was keeping the spritzers coming!

My friends Dawn Ford, left, and Susan Hawthorne wearing very complementary outfits!

Debbie Diddle, left and Susan Hyde, the former longtime director of development at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Carolyn Browning, left, and Mimi Turner.

There’s a great mingling area just outside the dining room at The Barn at Blackberry Farm.

Rosemary Gilliam, left, and Melanie Wood.

Sheena McCall, left, and Barbara Apking outside the kitchen.

Where we discovered that we were having chicken for lunch!

Artist Denise Stewart-Sanabria spent a few minutes chatting with art lovers June Heller, center, and Mary Morris prior to her presentation.

Stephen Wicks, the curator of the Knoxville Museum of Art, gave a brief introduction.

And then it was showtime.

The artist said this painting of mangoes and apples is representative of the people on both sides of the Mexican-American border. Hmm.

And this painting featuring marshmallow “Peeps” is modeled after a John Singer Sargent portrait. (Did I have too many of those spritzers???)

This painting, called “Culture Shock Goes Grand,” was to be auctioned off the following evening at L’Amour du Vin at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Doug and Melissa White, owners of Lexus of Knoxville, ended up buying it for $12,000.

The dining room beckoned.

Blackberry’s beautiful, simple table settings.

The first course was my favorite: marinated collard greens with parsnip crème fraîche, pecans, dill pollen and preserved peppers. It was paired with a 2017 Arista chardonnay from Sonoma Coast. Arista was the featured winery of this year’s L’Amour du Vin.

Jeannie Bennett and Robert Shipley of Bennett Galleries were on hand.

Here’s that Springer Mountain chicken with Carolina gold rice grits, mushrooms and garden greens. Wine was a 2017 Arista pinot noir from Sonoma Coast.

It was fun seeing my downtown Knoxville friends Cathy and Mark Hill.

Dessert was Cruze Farm buttermilk pie with pecan caramel and garden berry jam.

Another magical meal at Blackberry Farm came to an end.

I went to the WC and took a photo of myself because I was so proud that I used what I learned from an earlier Blue Streak post to tie the birthday scarf I was given by my friend and work colleague Maria McHale. Click here for that post.

Thanks for reading!


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10 Responses to Wine, food and ‘donuts behaving badly!’

  1. Pat Ball, on March 24th, 2020 at 9:59 pm said:

    Cynthia, you look beautiful in your scarf❗️

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on March 24th, 2020 at 10:39 pm said:

    Pat: Thanks! You are so sweet. I love it – and that I learned how to tie it!

  3. Gay Lyons, on March 25th, 2020 at 2:14 pm said:

    The food looks awesome as always. I love Denise’s art. I would love to own one of her pieces.

  4. MaryPat Tyree, on March 25th, 2020 at 2:36 pm said:

    Loved your article on tying scarves. Stay well and keep writing. Enjoy The Bluestreak!

  5. Maria McHale, on March 25th, 2020 at 5:25 pm said:

    Beautiful, elegant event… and outfit!

  6. David Butler, on March 25th, 2020 at 6:58 pm said:

    Cynthia, thank you for these wonderful memories of the time “before!” Can’t wait until we can gather again. Be well.

  7. Mimi Turner, on March 26th, 2020 at 9:32 am said:

    So happy to celebrate the art of Denise Stewart-Sanabria – one of Knoxville’s living treasures!!❤️

  8. Cynthia Moxley, on March 26th, 2020 at 9:54 am said:

    Gay: Food was fab, of course. And I am happy to see that so many folks are familiar with Denise and her art. It was my first exposure to it and I really love its vitality!

    Mary Pat: Thanks for reading and for the compliment. You stay well, as well.

    Maria: Thanks for giving me the pretty scarf. It goes great with that top I have!

    David: The novelty of this situation has more than worn off! I can’t wait to come out safely on the other side.

    Mimi: Wonderful to discover her. Great seeing you, as always!

  9. Stephen Harris, on March 29th, 2020 at 11:21 pm said:


    Great report! As I have told you many times, with the transformation of local print media it’s been primarily up to you and Gay and her team to keep important and interesting local events covered.

    Thank you!

    Stephen Harris

  10. Dr. Tiriza Saziru, on July 16th, 2020 at 7:53 am said:

    Had an excellent time at BlackBerry Farm celebrating the artist & works of Denise Stewart-Sanabria. Thank you Knoxville Museum of Art!
    –Dr Tiriza Saziru

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