Monday, November 28, 2011

“Where the needle goes, the thread must follow”

I have exhibited the work of several fiber artists over the years in galleries and exhibitions that I have curated, so I’m no stranger to fiber arts. However, these works were usually large wall pieces richly constructed from of a variety of materials assembled together in all kinds of different ways. Whether the materials were sewn, glued, bolted, tied, or woven together, these works were impressive and heady constructions that were more like soft wall sculpture rather than fiber works.

That’s why I was so impressed with the delicate miniature portrait embroidery of fiber artist Cayce Zavaglia that I discovered  when I came across an interview with her on  

© Cayce Zavaglia

While her pieces are usually just under life size and take approximately 6-8 months to create, these new works are much smaller in scale, measuring only about 8" x 12".  Though smaller than her traditional work, these gems still pack a visual wallop. They are insightful, compelling and deeply sincere. All at once, they successfully present a full circle portrait that reflects not only the humanity of the subject, but a deep awareness of the sitter’s psyche and spirit.

A viewer of these stunning works isn’t simply looking at a well executed portrait, they are bonding with it. The viewer’s eyes lock with the subject’s eyes thusly opening a channel of myriad back stories and memories, mist, light and shadow. The works are so successful, that the fact that they are composed of countless and deliberately placed stitches (normally one of the most important aspects of the works) almost becomes background music to an unforgettable scene from some classic film.

Zavaglia has so adeptly created these mini-masterpieces that once they leave the artist’s hands and studio, one gets a true sense of them beginning a life of their own with a symbolic tapestry of life experience created with one ply embroidery floss. In my opinion, Zavaglia has obtained a goal that many artist share but so few achieve – the ability to create work compelling enough to stand on it’s own without a tipping of the hat to the work’s creator. Viewer’s of these works are compelled to learn more about that artist from viewing the work – not the other way around, which, in my opinion, has become a bane of the contemporary art world.

You can read more about these stunning works and see examples of her artistry in the interview here -

To learn more about this fantastic artist and to see examples of her equally impressive largr works, visit her website at

1 comment:

Lydia said...

Beautiful! Thank you for this introduction to her art.