Cayce Zavaglia: Unseen

October 18 – November 27, 2019

Unseen, 2019
Hand wool embroidery, acrylic paint, pom poms and sequins on raw Belgian linen
84 x 72 inches

Emmylou, 2019
Hand embroidery: Crewel wool on Belgian linen with acrylic background
29 x 28 inches

Orlando, 2018
Hand embroidery: Crewel wool on Belgian linen with acrylic background
23 1/4 x 20 3/4 inches

Sandra, 2018
Hand embroidery: Crewel wool on Belgian linen with acrylic background
15 1/2 x 24 1/4 inches

Press Release

For Immediate Release


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 Pennsylvania 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

exhibition, Unseen.


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