It wasn’t until several years ago that Zavaglia felt as if she’d perfected this process. Around the same time, the medium of embroidery presented her with another new, unexpected challenge. “I started recognizing the images on the back of my compositions as a legitimate part of my practice,” she said.
As Zavaglia stitches the faces of her sitters, a chaotic image emerges on the back of her canvas. It’s a mess of knotted, protruding threads, but a face can still be deciphered within the woolen pandemonium. She became fascinated with these compositions: mottled, imperfect alter-egos of the polished portraits she created on the front.
“The back feels more like the psychological side of the portrait,” she explained. “We all have two sides. An exterior that we use to face the world, and an interior, which we might not let anyone see—because it’s knotted and messy and tangled.”
These days, she shows both sides of her embroidered portraits in exhibitions and on her website. And she’s also returned to painting. “We all have two sides,” Zavaglia admitted. “So that’s something we can all relate to.”