Sherry Zvares Sanabria, a Washington area painter whose often moody works depicted cavernous and shadowy construction sites, empty rooms or abandoned buildings, died March 3 at Powhatan Nursing Home in Falls Church, Va. She was 76.

The cause was cancer, said her son, Alex S. Kasten. She was a resident of Leesburg, Va.

Mrs. Sanabria — who early in her career was known as Sherry Zvares Kasten — began exhibiting extensively in the late 1970s and was highlighted as an emerging artist in a 1980 exhibition at the Phillips Collection gallery in Washington.

Writing in The Washington Post, art critic Paul Richard noted: “Kasten’s works on paper, with their matching parallels and organizing grids, look much like abstractions, but become on second glance slightly out-of-focus scenes of urban excavations. Those stripes are reinforcing bars, those cylinders are steam pipes, those bands are boards or I-beams.

“The colors that prevail,” he added, “are the colors of raw lumber, rusting steel, earth. Kasten’s works suggest the quiet of the cave.”

She continued to be drawn to mysterious and enigmatic empty spaces, depicting slave quarters, German concentration camps and decaying rooms at Ellis Island.

“The Great Hall and other empty rooms seemed filled with the presence of the millions who had passed through,” she said of Ellis Island in a Post interview in 1992. “I felt I could still sense their hope and anticipation, tempered by anxiety and fear.”

Over the decades, her work was included in dozens of exhibitions mostly on the East Coast, including the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, the Ellis Island immigration museum and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York.

Sherry Eve Zvares, a native Washingtonian, was a 1955 graduate of Coolidge High School and a 1959 graduate of George Washington University. She received a master’s of fine arts degree from American University in 1974.

Her first marriage, to Phillip Kasten, ended in divorce. Survivors include her husband of 28 years, sculptor Robert Sanabria of Leesburg; two children from her first marriage, Jessica L. Kasten and Alex S. Kasten, both of Bethesda; two stepchildren, Robert Sanabria II of Concord, Calif., and Suzanne von Engelhardt of Berlin; a sister; and five grandchildren.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Mrs. Sanabria’s year of graduation from Coolidge High School.

— Adam Bernstein