This Florida Artist Captures Humanity Through Her Fiber Portraits

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artist kandy g lopez sitting by her fiber work and yarn in her studio Kandy G Lopez is a multimedia Fort Lauderdale artist more currently known for her compelling fiber portraits.

Growing up, Kandy G Lopez remembers visiting art museums and feeling disconnected with the subjects portrayed within the ornate gilded frames. “There was never representation for people who looked like me,” recalls Lopez, who was born in New Jersey to Dominican parents. “If they were, it was in a servitude situation.”

Now a portraitist herself, the Fort Lauderdale resident is helping to change these depictions through her own work. A multimedia connoisseur, the Nova Southeastern University associate professor is adept in paint, printmaking, stained glass and collage, yet she is more recently known for her fiber renderings of minorities. All are of real people—some Lopez knows well, others she met spontaneously—and each is someone who caught her eye. “They take the air out of the room when they walk in,” the artist describes. “They just have that energy. Maybe it’s my imagination, but everybody turns and looks at them.”

large fiber portraits by Kandy G Lopez hanging on walls in the artist's studio

Her works span 10 inches to 12 feet tall.

a collage of smaller fiber works by Kandy G Lopez with a photo of her muse

Lopez began her fiber practice in 2015.

artist Kandy G Lopez uses scissors to cut the threads from a small fiber portrait

The Nova Southeastern University associate professor is represented by ACA Galleries.

a fiber portrait in process by Kandy G Lopez

She exhibits throughout the country, including a group show at Miami’s Haitian Heritage Museum on view until November 16.

To create a piece, she photographs her muse, always shooting while kneeling so the model is looking down—an angle that counters the social hierarchy common in historical art. “I feel the perception of minorities is that the person who is darker is always looked down upon or seen as inferior,” Lopez explains. “For me to get on my knees under a person who’s also a minority gives the perspective of them being bigger, higher, more important.”

After printing the selected photo, she cuts a canvas from a roll of rug-hooking mesh, pins it to a wall and draws an outline of the image using a permanent marker. The artist then determines the color palette and begins embroidering—incorporating yarn, thread and repurposed clothing—always starting with the face, the part she finds most thrilling. “You can’t make a perfect circle, because the grid is squared,” Lopez notes. “So figuring out how to create a curve is a challenge I enjoy but also drives me crazy.”

Each piece is named after its subject, the artist’s way of commemorating every person she portrays, and, she hopes, forming a connection with the viewer. “I love it when people say, ‘They remind me of somebody,’” Lopez reflects. “This is my way of depicting each person as their best self. I want them to be in the history books.”

PHOTOS: DAN CUTRONA