Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

Mical Aloni: Riches of Stitches

BY JESSICA HEMMINGS

Mical Aloni

“A total monogamist” is how Mical Aloni describes her relationship to embroidery. “I work on one piece at a time, thinking that each is the one thing I will ever make. I cannot concentrate on the next idea until what I am working on is completely finished.” Aloni’s embroidery technique is self-taught and simple. She stitches with one thread at a time, often using old bed sheets as her base. “I do try to make them square,” she laughs, “Because it annoys my framer!”  As often as not, the density of thread that builds across her heavily worked surfaces cause her diminutive works to twist or dip in one corner: evidence of the rich textures she painstakingly creates.

The scale of these works is in fact a deceptive record of the time Aloni devotes to her art. The “Women of Taos” series for instance will, when complete, include close to twenty embroideries and has taken three full years to produce. “I am a perfectionist,” she admits. “If I try to fix the world I get panicky. But the scale of my embroideries is comfortable for me – one I can control.”

“I don’t care to show my technique, in fact many people visit my studio thinking that I work with pastels on paper.” Amazingly, Aloni remains untroubled by the prospect that some viewers might mistake her masterful use of thread for another material because she has noticed that clients often “respond to the sweat equity” of her work once they understand the materials she employs. She relates this critical distance to her love of music, which often accompanies her while she works. “When I listen to a master violinist, I do not think about the technical difficulties of playing the instrument, rather I hear great music. Similarly, I work towards mastering my technique, I hope that while looking at my work one is not occupied by the limitations rather you see the beauty of the picture.”

A compelling sense of humanity is apparent throughout Aloni’s portraits, which range from the candid to the staged. “I love the three dimensional aspect possible with embroidery.” Critics have accused her of expressing the feelings of subjects at the expense of revealing her own. She riles at this type of reading, explaining that such criticism reflects a traditional art historical perspective to which she does not subscribe. Instead she relishes the opportunity to find empathy with her subject, an approach she admits may be a more feminine and intuitive than that of her critics.

The majority of these embroideries are portraits based on photographs Aloni has taken herself. “The Honeymoon Album: Impressions from Baja California” are inspired by snapshots taken on her honeymoon in 2002, evidence that this artist makes no exaggeration when she admits that in the twenty-seven years she has been embroidering she has never stopped working. Under the pseudonym M.A. Rezoni, she also collaborates with her husband, Assaf Reznik, a photographer, and introduces embroidered passages into digitally printed (but not manipulated) versions of his photographs on archival canvas. The couple describe the collaboration as “a conversation between two artists and two mediums, creating one new language out of the original two.” Perhaps Aloni’s command of light and shadow, a signature of her style, can be explained in part by this close connection to photography, a medium ruled by the presence and absence of light.

A professional chef by training, Aloni moved to Taos, New Mexico in 1994 after the sale of her Long Island restaurant, Franzi and Nells. But her interest in embroidery started long before her arrival in Taos at an agricultural Kibbutz in northern central Israel where she explains, “girls were expected to sew and make traditional embroidery.” “I use thread because growing up we were poor – but traditional materials were available. A lot was born out of poverty. I could not afford space or materials, but I could always afford thread.” Today she admits that, given the option, she would not change her chosen medium for the world. “Embroidery is like creating something from nothing, I can design an entire world with material that costs less than a dollar.”

“The Women of Taos” will be exhibited at the Harwood Museum in Taos, New Mexico in January of 2006.

Embroidery Magazine (Jan./Feb. 2006: 14-17)