Cayce Zavaglia’s embroidered portraits are unbelievable. Four years ago, Design Milk featured her photorealistic thread portraits, and now she’s taken her process and skills to a WHOLE new level: the reverse.
Visitors who walk too quickly through her current exhibition at Lyons Weir Gallery might miss the basic fact that all these images are sewn – not painted.
Half of the show features Cayce’s painstaking embroidery work. As in her previous exhibition, a couple portraits use a thicker “crewel wool” thread (above), but newer smaller works push the level of detail higher using much thinner thread (below): a one ply cotton, silk and wool thread.
Visitors with less than 20/20 eyesight should bring a magnifying glass (seriously) to catch the complex network of colored thread combinations and directions that create these moving portraits of her friends and family.
A few years ago Cayce “discovered” the back of her work – a chaotic network of thread that forms as she works on the front. This show features the BACK side (or “verso”) to a greater degree, recognizing the beauty of these happy accidents and the metaphor of our private messy inner selves.
Here’s a hot tip: one of the thread portraits is in the middle of the room to allow visitors to view either side, but the gallery staff will gladly pull any work off the wall to show you the back! If they’re busy, just pull up the images on your iPad while you’re there to compare.
This is where it gets crazy – and doubly reversed. Cayce became so intrigued with the unseen reverse side of the thread portraits that she decided to create detailed PAINTINGS of the chaotic network of thread, shifting from using thread to mimic paint, to paint that looks like thread!
The show features a number of small gouache paintings (above), and two MASSIVE acrylic paintings that enlarge the thread strands to Jackson Pollock scale.
I love the idea of a “double portrait” within one object, but the exhibition itself captures her own split-creative-personality. Zavaglia has a superhuman obsession with precision and detail in the original portrait and yet a clear love of the beauty in uncontrolled chaos in the “verso”, to such a degree that she spends ANOTHER period of countless hours studying and painting that chaos… with a superhuman level of precision and detail. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
All photos courtesy of Lyons Wier Gallery, New York.