For Immediate Release
CAYCE ZAVAGLIA: UNSEEN
October 18 – November 27, 2019
Reception for the Artist:
Friday, October 18, 5:00 - 7:00 pm
William Shearburn Gallery is pleased to announce Unseen, a solo exhibition of work by St. Louis artist Cayce Zavaglia. The exhibition will open with a reception for the artist on October 18 and will remain on view through November 27.
Cayce Zavaglia received her Master in Fine Arts in painting at Washington University in 1998. Her
artworks are included in collections from the Schoeni Gallery Hong Kong, the prestigious West
Collection in Pensylvania and the The Ria and Lex Daniëls Collection at the Gemeentemuseum
in The Hague, Holland, to name a few. She has produced six solo shows from Miami to St. Louis
to New York City. Zavaglia credits her exhibition Recto/Verso at the Contemporary Art Museum
in St. Louis (2014) as a pinnacle experience, which spurred her on to exploring more large-scale
works and breaking the boundaries of portraiture. Her history of exhibiting with the William
Shearburn Gallery began in 2016 with EXPO Chicago and has organically led to this current solo
I was originally trained as a painter, but switched to embroidery 18 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.
Over the years, I have developed a sewing technique that allows me to blend colors and
establish tonalities that 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 for the allusion of depth, volume, and form. My stitching methodology borders on
the obsessive, but ultimately allows me to visually evoke painterly renditions of flesh, hair, and
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, Artist Statement