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cayce zavaglia’s embroidered portraits

Originally a painter, Cayce Zavaglia still thinks of her embroidered portraits as paintings. Zavaglia might use wool, but her work borrows techniques from drawing and painting.

Frustrated by the limitations of the range of colors available to her, she created a system of sewing the threads in a particular sequence that give the allusion of specific colors or tones.

{please click on the images to enlarge – don’t miss this!}

Hand Embroidery: Crewel Wool and Acrylic on Linen, 14 x 35 inches

Sophie, detail

Zavaglia explains, “The direction in which the threads were sewn had to mimic the way lines are layered in a drawing to give the allusion of depth, volume, and form. Over time the stitches have become tighter and more complex but ultimately more evocative of flesh, hair, and cloth.”

Hand Embroidery: Crewel Wool and Acrylic on Linen, 14 x 39 inches

My work unabashedly nods its head to the tradition of tapestry and my own love of craft. Using wool instead of oils has allowed me to broaden the dialogue between portrait and process as well as propose a new definition for the word “painting”.

Dad, detail

Creating each portrait has become a meditation on her relationship with the subject.  The mother of four young children, Zavaglia explains below (an excerpt from a recent interview on mr x stitch) how she came to use her art as meditation. Poignant. Lovely. Real.

As I am only interested in documenting those dearest to me, I only sew portraits of family and friends. I never do commissions. At the time of my first pregnancy—when I was starting this series—I was thinking a lot about family. This coincided with the events of September 11, when amidst tragedy, the most important thing in the world was family.  With these issues in mind, I wasn’t interested in painting those I didn’t know, but rather discovering more about those I did know.  Studying someone’s face for 6 months—detailing every mole and hair—has allowed me a meditative sort of reflection on these relationships.

Read the entire interview here.
More images at Lyons Wier Gallery (NYC)

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