Collaborating since 2001, Argentinean partners Leo Chiachio and Daniel Giannone combine their life and art. They live in an open, same sex marriage as they work together on their stitched art exploring themes of gender within cultures worldwide. Their artwork is almost always self-referential — self-portraits that depict them as a family with their beloved Dachshund Piolin. They embroider fantasy worlds in which they cast themselves as protagonists, be they indigenous people or kabuki actors or Biblical figures. Challenging stereotypical notions of masculinity and of gay men, Chiachio and Giannone’s work celebrates cultures and historical periods in which men—like the male species of many animals and birds—expressed their identities not so much by showing brute physical strength, but through a playful performance of self in which colorful face paint and elaborate costumes were culturally sanctioned.
Their primary medium is stitchery and the artists spend eight-to-nine hours a day working concurrently on different pieces in their studio. When he was young, Giannone attended Catholic school and learned to embroider from the nuns who were his teachers. After attending art school, Chiachio related the process of embroidery to painting with thread. Together, the artists use computers to manipulate photographs to create the original images they project and draw onto fabric as the design template for their embroideries. After that, they improvise daily what kinds of embroidery stitches—French knots, satin stitches or blanket stitches—and what color thread they will use to paint their compositions. Wanting their way of life to be perceived as an ordinary part of everyday life, they often select the ground cloth for their embroideries from vintage linens, used clothing, and fabric clearly identified with specific social contexts such as the military (camouflage) and/or domesticity (a rag rug).
Their work is labor intensive and it can take months to finish a piece. To keep their collaboration fresh, they talk and discuss constantly. They write, “We don’t always agree in what we want, but we’ve learned to listen to each other. This has made our relationship richer. It empowers the creative process. The diversity of thought makes us stronger. Fights slow down the creative process. Synergy is always present. Constant dialogue is indispensable to growth.”
This is the first time Chiachio and Giannone have had a solo exhibition in the United States. The provocative, intimate, and transforming images they embroider transport the viewer to a re-imagined Eden where Adam and Eve can be reincarnated as Adam and Ed celebrating a new found freedom to love and freedom of expression.