“I was originally trained as a painter, but switched to embroidery 12 years ago in an attempt to establish a non-toxic studio and create a body of work that referenced an embroidered piece I had made as a child growing up in Australia. My work focuses exclusively on the portraits of friends, family, and fellow artists. The gaze of the portrait toward the viewer has remained constant over the years and in my work…as has my search for a narrative based on both faces and facture. The work is all hand sewn using cotton and silk thread or crewel embroidery wool. From a distance they read as hyper-realistic paintings, and only after closer inspection does the work’s true construction reveal itself.
A few years ago, I turned one of my embroideries over and for the first time saw the possibilities of a new image and path for my work that had been with me in the studio for so long but had gone unnoticed. It was the presence of another portrait that visibly was so different from the meticulously sewn front image…but perhaps more psychologically profound. The haphazard beauty found in this verso image created a haunting contrast to the front image and was a world of loose ends, knots, and chaos that could easily translate into the world of paint.
This discovery led to a “return to paint” in my work and the production of a series of intimate gouache and large format acrylic paintings of these verso images. Highlighting the reverse side of my embroideries, which historically and traditionally has been hidden from the viewer, has initiated a conversation about the divergence between our presented and private selves. The production of both Recto and Verso images is now the primary focus of my studio work.” – Cayce Zavaglia
Embroidered Portraits by Cayce Zavaglia: