Embroidered Portraits that Resemble Oil Paintings

January 06, 2017

Originally trained as a painter, Cayce Zavaglia switched to embroidery 11 years ago in an attempt to reference an embroidered piece she had made as a child growing up in Australia. Zavaglia’s portraits of friends and family are hand sewn using crewel embroidery wool and take approximately 6-8 months to complete. The use of paint is limited to the background only. From a distance, they read as photo-realistic paintings, and only after closer inspection does the work’s true construction reveal itself.

Zavaglia has developed a technique which has been described as “Modern Pointillism,” that allows her to blend colors and establish tonalities that truly 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 the allusion of depth, volume, and form. Her stitching methodology borders on the obsessive. This system allows her to visually evoke painterly renditions of flesh, hair, and cloth.

Cayce Zavaglia’s embroidered portraits have facilitated her growing interest in a more re-contextualized approach to painting. By eliminating the use of paint to create her portraits and yet giving the illusion that it is still present, has allowed Zavaglia to further tighten the tension between portrait and process and ultimately propose a new definition for “painting”. The work has the remarkable ability to conceptually transport the viewer into the emotional make-up of the sitter, creating a dialogue between each piece and its audience. This capacity moves her work beyond its technical prowess and into the realm of Conceptual Realism. —Lyons Wier Gallery, 2012

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