It is not a total surprise that Gio Swaby would base her practice on textiles. After all, her mother was a seamstress.
However, there is more to the 31-year-old artist’s life-size embroidered portraits, characterized by bold patterns and freehand machine stitching. From a distance, the contours of her work appear seamless, but, as one moves closer, the intricate stitching and thread come into focus. This impression pervades “Fresh Up,” Swaby’s first museum solo show, which opened last May at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, and is now on view at the Art Institute of Chicago until July 3.