New York City-based Richard Saja creates art and that simultaneously highlights and understates the merging of traditional decor and contemporary statements. In an age of computer graphics, mass-produced fabrics and autonomous sewing machines, Saja showcases modern subjects through bygone media, invoking the past but with a distinct view of the present. This combination allows Saja to convey fresh commentary in familiar and recognizable ways.
As a weave and embroidery artist, Saja resuscitates this outdated skill in a way that ushers in a new era, showing us the possibilities for such a medium’s usage beyond the ridiculousness of Cosby Show sweaters and ostentatious, saccharine wallpaper. His “Sideshow!” fabric juxtaposes the low-brow and exploitative entertainment of the circus freak show with the sophistication of toile, a bucolic scene set against a backdrop of crème or white often found on china patterns and upholstery.
“The Eighth Day” brings together opposing themes in similar way. By embroidering Hello Kitty characters on a backdrop of “God” in the midst of the Biblical creation myth, the viewer begins to view both concepts in a new way where one cannot view one without it being informed by the presence of the other. The simple combination of the two begs questions of how religion and commercialism interact, counteract and intermingle in an ever-changing symbiotic product for the masses that they can either choose to market or buy, or not.
Richard Saja infuses new life into tired, cookie-cutter patterns, illustrating that even the most widespread and overdone topics, themes and images can be reshaped to show new perspectives. In an often subversive yet playful manner, Saja’s work challenges the viewer to redefine the meaning and value of what is considered “traditional” décor and art, and through this redefinition, launches old-fashioned needlepoint into the 21st century.
© W. Laurie Ewer