At Peabody Essex Museum, Gio Swaby’s virtuosic portraits of Black women in thread and fabric

Murray Whyte for Boston Globe

Loose black thread dangles from bare canvas in Gio Swaby’s “Another Side to Me” series, all

of them self-portraits, or portraits of women close to her. The artist’s skill with needle and thread, on ample display at “Fresh Up,” her just-opened solo exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum, makes error or oversight near impossible. The unfinished quality is full of intent: As long as we live, we are works in progress; there’s always more becoming to do.


It also conveys an ebullience and self-possession that only the hand-made can achieve (painting, or good painting, does this intrinsically; to labor over an image, coaxing form and expression from the slippery proclivities of oil or gouache, is to imbue it with deep care). Each piece brims with affection and respect, for her subjects and the materials she uses to capture them.

August 24, 2023