Needle, Thread and Flesh: Artist Hand-Sews Scenes Right Into His Palm

With his own skin as his canvas and needles as his tools, artist David Cata demands a pound of flesh from himself in return for his creative expression. That is to say, each individual piece takes a toll that may require a healing period before he can begin another – something that can’t be said about most other kinds of artistic media. Previously known for embroidering photographs of his family members onto his palms, Catá now turns to scenery and still life as his subjects of choice.

But don’t worry, it isn’t too painful, and only barely draws blood. Working just on the surface with the layer of skin that’s mostly dead and easy to pierce, Catá typically ‘sketches’ whatever’s right in front of him, whether that’s the sleeping figure of a woman in bed, photos of his relatives, a snowy landscape or – as in the case of his most recent piece, Horizonte 07. La Musicá – the keys of a piano. He has also sewn tiny pockets for soil into his skin to support seedlings.

The artist leaves his works in place for mere minutes, recording their creation or photographing the results before ripping out the stitches. He says the resulting ‘tracks’ stay on his body for about four weeks. In an interview with Citizen Brooklyn, he said, “Somehow, all of the portraits I’ve done are permanently living on me, even if they are not visible. Each print is latent on my body. But, if I had to pick one, I’d keep my great-grandmother Perpetua’s portrait.”