Embroidery artist Cayce Zavaglia’s work is as much about the unseen as it is about the obvious. She considers the knotted, complicated, messy backs of her fiber portraits to be every bit as interesting as the remarkably lifelike faces she captures. The backs of her portraits represent the hidden pain and disappointments we all carry with us. Rather than using silk and linen, the artist uses simple cotton and wool, which she feels keeps the portraits accessible.
“Over the years, I have developed a sewing technique that allows me to blend colors and establish tonalities that resemble the techniques used in classical oil painting. The direction in which the threads are sewn mimic the way brush marks are layered within a painting which, in turn, allows for the allusion of depth, volume, and form. My stitching methodology borders on the obsessive, but ultimately allows me to visually evoke painterly renditions of flesh, hair, and cloth.”
Originally trained as a painter, Zavaglia says she took up embroidery a little more than a decade ago because she was seeking to create the most honest portraits she could make. She starts by taking a staggering 100-150 photographs of her subject. She then selects the image that speaks to her, and without sketching or projecting, begins to sew. I’m blown away by her ability to so accurately represent every quirk and feature of a person’s face without any guides or cheats. What a magnificent talent!
If you find yourself in New York in May of 2018, check out the artist’s show at Lyons Wier Gallery. It’s going to include some of her newer embroidered works, alongside paintings she’s done of the reverse side of the embroidered pieces. Mind blowing!
You can see more of this lovely artist’s work on her website.
All images property of Cayce Zavaglia.