Susan Taber Avila

Byzantine Las Vegas 2003-2005


With a myriad of colors, patterns, mosaics and iconic imagery, I use fabric and stitching to muse on the cultural intersections of Las Vegas with ancient Byzantium.

In 2002, I made my first visit to Las Vegas and was enchanted with the city. It was at once dazzling, expansive, surreal, and a sensory overload. An invitation to exhibit my artwork in Las Vegas provided an opportunity to capture impressions of the city in fabric and thread.

Normally, I recycle samples and test fabrics leftover from my hand-printed fabric business for use in my artwork. A Byzantine themed collection left me with many ornate patterns in rich jewel and gold tones. These fabrics, loosely inspired by Byzantine clothing, became the base structure for the pieces shown under the title "Byzantine Las Vegas" at the Charleston Heights Art Gallery in Las Vegas, Nevada in the spring of 2004.

The series was shown again at the Pi Gallery in Kansas City in June, 2005. Titled "Byzantine Las Vegas De Novo," the second show substituted 4 of the original pieces with 9 new pieces. The work combines many traditional elements of Byzantium culture with contemporary references to Las Vegas. For example, in Icon, magazine covers featuring the famous Las Vegas icon, Liberace, border a traditional Byzantine Icon. Royal Flush is a torso heavily encrusted with Byzantine inspired pearls and paillettes made from playing cards. The showgirl, the crusades, the slot machine, medieval books, glitz and glitter all become fodder for invention.

The focal point of the series is a giant fabric mosaic, which measures 9 feet by 27 feet. The piece consists of 13600 pieces of fabric meticulously sewn into a stitched net. Las Vegas entertainment icons created in the model of Byzantine religious icons float on top of the piece. This installation combines classic Las Vegas themes with classic Byzantine themes. The results are whimsical, awe-inspiring and always entertaining.

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Copyright 1982-2006 Susan Taber Avila