Select reviews of Sanabria's work.
"…she has taken hold of a cohesive subject that depends upon the power of light and shade to mold form and to evoke the human presence despite its literal absence. The persistence of these themes in her work is important. The increasing sophistication of her technique, the sharpening of her grasp of structure and the deepening of her vision are even more so…the light that comes through serves both to dramatize three-dimensional structure and to enliven subtly luminous surfaces.
-Benjamin Forgey, from a review of "Sanctuaries," The Washington Post, 1983
"The paintings…depict interior architecture transformed by artifice of light into modest, moody drama. This is a drama without people, a drama of implication, a drama of space and object and the cast shadow. …These paintings speak to us in hushed tones about existence without trappings-life stripped bare. In a sense these empty rooms stand for all empty rooms."
-Val Lewton, from a review of "Empty Rooms, Empty Spaces," Washington Review, 1981
"To painter Sherry Zvares Sanabria, there is no such thing as an empty room. There are always ghosts of past inhabitants, lingering spirits that add another dimension to the plane geometry of walls, windows, and doors…Sanabria angles windows and doors in her otherwise architecturally precise renderings to draw the viewer into the waiting emptiness."
-Deborah Papier, from a review of "Interiors: Ellis Island," in Galleries, 1989
"…Sherry Zvares Sanabria's building facades and interiors are about as abstract as a depictive artist can achieve. That is, while rendered with an understated accuracy and painterly sensitivity, with intense attention to the play of light, the frontal, straight-on-images…suppress dynamics…[What] we find…[is] a steady, deep and brooding confrontation, concrete and unvarnished."
-Joe Shannon from Realist/Stylist, 2000
"[Sanabria's] paintings have much formal strength. They are rich with grids and parallels, and their shadows form diagonals. Their earth tones have been nicely turned (and sometimes nicely contrasted by a band of deep blue sky), yet we never read these pictures as if they were abstractions. The are too filled up with memory, with sympathy-and praise…These unpretentious paintings are sure, strong and good looking."
-Paul Richard, from a review of "Mexico: The Walls," in The Washington Post, 1986
"Although [Sanabria] paints interiors empty of people, these spaces are so provocative that the absence of figures is even more perceptive of the human condition. She paints real places-though as the viewer we only know it from her titles."
Mary Anne Goley, from Capital Choice, 1985
"Some places sign memories. The songs may be faint, but they're there for those who care to listen. Like the song of the house you grew up in, perhaps now occupied by another family-or even abandoned. It's not a song composed of notes but of remembered echoes, familiar smells and the fall of dusty light. You know the tune…"
"Such ethereal qualities can be tough to capture in paint. An artist really has only the light to rely on, and colors to provoke dormant emotions…but Washington painter Sherry Zvares Sanabria has turned in a virtuoso performance doing just that….Sanabria's pictures brilliantly capture the melancholy quality of the state of neglect; of gray light falling through streaked and sooty windows…[she] manages to create a sense of voyeurism as the viewer looks into the past, unseen."
Michael Welzenback, from a review of "Interiors: Ellis Island," The Washington Post, 1989
"Her subjects[s are] washed by the moody light and restrained brushy color that have become her hallmark…exuding a sense of calm and solitude that is satisfying and enveloping…What distinguishes [her] from other realists…is her well-formulated way of looking at things, her ability to scrim out detail in a consistent way, and her distinctive style."
Jo Ann Lewis, from a review of "Empty Rooms, Empty Places," The Washington Post, 1981
"Sanabria paints without impasto in soft, creamy strokes that saturate the paper the way the stains of time mark a wall. For many years she has painted old buildings with the thought that they retain the presence of their past inhabitants…she translates paint into illumination tangibly penetrating every window and doorway…"
-Mary McCoy from a review of "Lagers," The Washington Post, 1993
"Her careful paintings are haunting in the combination of their precision of naturalistic representation, dramatic handling of light and shadow, and, most noticeably, the absence of human or animal life. That is: we see the spaces recently left-abandoned is the sense one gets-by the humans who once were there."
Ori Z. Soltes, from Spirit and Vision in Holocaust Art, 1996
"Her evocation of meditative atmospheres grows from a concentration on specifics. No window admits light in precisely the same way in these paintings, just as the breakdown of a sunbeam…is different in each case."
Lee Fleming, from an essay for "Sanctuaries," 1983
"Light for the artist, has a magical quality. She uses acrylics with washes on paper, a technique that allows her to pull up a luminous glow from the paper's surface. Diffused light is used to express a dreamy otherworldliness; sharply defined shadows set up contrasting rhythms within the interiors."
Lenore D. Miller, from an essay on "Interiors: Ellis Island," 1989
"Sanabria's subjects have always been difficult ones, not approachable as picturesque or sentimental. Such vigorous avoidance of the banal, while painting such subjects as rooms, staircases, walls, etcetera, has been thrilling to watch the last decade and a half, as her achievement has intensified and matured. Her vacant spaces are peopled with the memory of individuals and occurrences in lives touched by and sometimes transformed by past events. In effect, they are never empty. The spaces themselves are haunted by the memories and are no longer neutral."
Ben L. Summerford, from an essay on "Lagers," 1992