Cayce Zavaglia

Elly Verso, 2001. Hand embroidery: crewel wool on canvas.

Cayce Zavaglia, MFA98

Cayce Zavaglia earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Wheaton College in 1994 and her Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Washington University in 1998. In 2001, she began incorporating wool and cotton thread into her practice and embarked on a series of hand-embroidered portraits of family and friends. Her unique sewing technique has allowed her to blend colors and establish tonalities that resemble the techniques used in classical oil painting. Her stitching methodology borders on the obsessive, but it ultimately has allowed her to visually evoke painterly renditions of flesh, hair, and cloth.

A few years ago, she began highlighting the reverse side of her embroideries in a series of gouache, acrylic, and mixed media “Verso” portraits. Historically, in embroidery, this side is always hidden from view. Zavaglia’s work challenges traditional embroidery etiquette and the place of “craft” in art by allowing the viewer to see the loose ends, the knots, and the movements of the maker on the back of each portrait. In doing so, she has initiated a conversation about the divergence between our presented and private selves. The production of both Recto and Verso portraits is now the primary focus of her studio work.

In 2014, Zavaglia was selected for the Great Rivers Biennial, and she mounted her first solo museum exhibition entitled Recto/Verso at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. That same year, she was also awarded the Regional Arts Commission Artist Fellowship, which allowed her to embark on a research trip to Australia to document childhood friends for future works and exhibitions. Zavaglia has had solo exhibitions in Miami, Chicago, St. Louis, and New York City. Her works are included in the permanent collections of the 21c Museum, the University of Maine’s Zillman Museum of Art, the West Collection, and the Ria and Lex Daniels Collection in The Hague, as well as numerous private collections across the United States. Zavaglia has been living and working in St. Louis since graduation and is represented by William Shearburn Gallery in St. Louis.

The Sam Fox School honored Zavaglia as part of its 2021 Awards for Distinction program.

Cayce Zavaglia
Martina, 2015. Hand Embroidery: Wool on Belgian linen with acrylic paint (background), 13.5 x 10 inches.

Cayce Zavaglia
Uncle Stevie, 2015. Hand embroidery: One-ply cotton, wool, and silk on Belgian linen with acrylic paint, 9 x 7 inches.