This Spanish Artist Sews Portraits Into His Palm

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A flor de piel (Overexposed Emotions) by David Catá

A flor de piel (Overexposed Emotions) by David Catá

Forget about wearing your heart on your sleeve, what about sewing it into your hand? David Catá is a 25-year-old Spanish artist who first caught our attention a few months ago when this video of him sewing a self-portrait into his palm went viral. While it’s not graphic or grisly per se, you definitely don’t want to watch it while eating.

We tracked Catá down in Viveiro, a small town in Galicia, Spain where he is currently living, to see why he prefers a needle and thread to brushes and paint. Over email Catá explained the inspiration for his art.

“I started using my body as a canvas when I was studying a masters degree of photography,” he wrote. “Before getting into A flor de piel (Overexposed Emotions) [the video that went viral], I worked on projects like Cimientos (Foundations), Ni conmigo ni sin mi (Neither With Me or Without Me) or Bajo mi piel (Under My Skin) in which I also used my body as an expression media.”


Catá’s use of a needle and thread in his work stems from very domestic source of inspiration–his mother.

“Since I was small I have seen my mother sewing orders for people, so this might [have] influenced me in some way,” he wrote. “When I started investigating about the act of sewing in relation with my body, I realized that with this a physical link was created in which an external factor became a part of my body. By sewing the images of my loved ones, this action turned [into] a symbolic act on how these people leave their mark on us.”

Given the physical and emotional ties that bind Catá to his work, we can understand why he chooses subjects who are close to his heart. A slideshow of the images of friends, teachers and family members he’s sewn into his hand can be seen below.

“First of all, I select the person’s photography that I’d like to portray and I draw it on my hand,” Catá explained. “The selection process is based on emotional matters. There are people in my life that are important and there’s affection.”

“Then I sew the portrait with color threads. I use regular thread and a sewing needle. Even it looks painful, these are superficial sewn and there’s almost no pain. It could be said that a tattoo hurts a lot more. When I talk about pain in my projects, I’m not referring to physical pain. I’m expressing emotional pain which is very different. The emotional aspects of pain are my concern.”

Each portrait takes about fours hours to complete. He records the process on video, so Catá’s palm portraits are in some ways performance art, not only in the sense that he invites an audience to witness him at work, but also in the sense that the final piece is ephemeral.

“After finishing the performative action, the prints remain over my body for four weeks,” he says. “Then they disappear. Only the photographic and videographic record remains and a small box which contains the threads and the detached skin of my left hand, which I put over the original image like a second skin.”

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