American Artist Cayce Zavaglia is a painter, although she is actually not painting. From a distance, they read as photo-realistic paintings, and only after closer inspection does the work’s true construction reveal itself. Her medium is crewel embroidery wool and with millions of tiny little stitches, she creates her artwork. Nevertheless the technique borrows more from the worlds of drawing and painting then it has to do with the work with wool we know, when i think of my grandma making socks for me. It’s hard not to refer to these embroidered portraits as ‘paintings’.
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 has developed a technique which can been described as ‘Modern Pointillism’ that allows her to blend colors and establish tonalities that truly resemble the techniques used in classical oil painting. Initially, working with an established range of wool colors proved frustrating. Unlike painting, she was unable to mix the colors by hand. Progressively, she created a system of sewing the threads in a sequence that would ultimately give the allusion of a certain color or tone. Over time the stitches have become tighter and more complex but ultimately more evocative of flesh, hair, and cloth. The use of paint is limited to the background only. Her stitching methodology borders on the obsessive. This system allows her to visually evoke painterly renditions while they take about 4-6 months to complete. She says ‘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.’
All images © Cayce Zavaglia