ENTER THE MIND OF AUBREY LONGLEY-COOK. MANBROIDERER. MASTER OF FOUND FABRICS. DISGRUNTLED NON-BOY SCOUT. AUBREY WAS KIND ENOUGH TO ANSWER MY QUESTIONS. ENJOY:
1. How old were you when you first started stitching and why did you start in the first place?
I was 19 when I first picked up a needle and thread. I was in school at the time, but there weren't any embroidery classes offered, so I started stitching on my own. My mother embroidered, and her work was a huge inspiration for me. She died of lung cancer a few years prior, and the act of stitching helped me come to terms with that loss. I was able to enroll in a Fine Art Textiles class the following year, and it was really solidifying to finally show my work and get feedback from my peers.
2. I love your use of mixed media, it brings to mind some of the work of Robert Rauschenberg. What artists have informed or influenced your work?
That's funny, because I wrote a term paper in high school on Robert Rauchenberg and Jasper Johns. Having just come out, I found their relationship intriguing and their artwork inspirational. I am definitely drawn to the rich emotions of Abstract Expressionism and the graphic patterns of Pop Art. A lot of other artists have inspired me over the years. I love the playful and narrative work of James Jean, the serene series photography of David Hilliard, the lush and opulent watercolors of Jeremiah Goodman, and the rich colors and modern shapes of Henri Matisse.
3. I am originally from Texas and I know that it has affected my artistic sensibilities. Has living in Georgia had any influence on your work or your "philosophy" about art?
Even though I have only lived in Georgia for two years, I am told that I have biscuits in my blood. I was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut and moved down south after graduating from school in Rhode Island. There is such a calm and comfort to southern living, that I immediately felt at home. The pace of my life settled, and I was able to focus on my work. This transition to a slower speed of life is very similar to the calming pace of working in embroidery and the distortion of time that occurs. The process is so meditative, and my concentration is so magnified that the world shrinks to the boarders of my hoop.
4. What is your concept behind the appropriation and embellishment of found fabrics in your pieces, if there is one?
Finding my own narrative in the fabric is very satisfying, and I enjoy the humor that can sometimes be uncovered. I am inspired by the wonderful embroideries of fellow manbroiderer Richard Saja. He is a master at embellishing found fabric.
5. Were you ever a Boy Scout? Some of your pieces have a demented Merit Badge feel to them.
Sadly, I was never a Boy Scout. I spent a lot of time hiking, canoeing, and camping as a child, and I loved being outside, but unfortunately it wasn't a popular group in my neighborhood. The patches were always the most alluring thing about the Boy Scouts, and I wanted a sash, and I wanted all of the badges. I did take ballroom dancing lessons though. Connecticut is classy like that.
6. As a "manbroiderer" living in the South, have you encountered any resistance to being a "guy that sews" or have most folks been supportive?
I certainly have gotten many odd looks in the past when describing my work, but people rarely voice their shock in a negative way. It's something that I've encountered both in the North and South, but in the end, the work speaks for itself, and most folks are supportive. I must admit it has always been more of an internal struggle for me. There is something sacred and forbidden about embroidery, and sometimes I feel like I should be doing something more masculine with my free time like hauling wood or working on my car. I find this "man guilt" so strange, but I like that it forces me to question my own gender roles. In the end, I enjoy the process, and that's enough for me.
7. What are your feelings on the "craft vs. art" issue? Is it an issue to you ? Basically, do you consider yourself an "artist" or a "craftsman"?
I do see "craft" and "art" as different things, but that doesn't mean they are not intertwined. I like to think of myself as an artist who aspires to be a skilled craftsman.
8. What are your favorite embroidery tools? You, know fave type of thread, fave stitch, wooden or plastic hoops. We wanna know your deep secrets.
I love working with bright fabrics, neon threads, color gradients, and monochrome two tones. Geometric patterns amaze me, and I always try to incorporate them into my work. I prefer natural materials like wooden hoops and recycle meterials.
9. Do you sell your work? If so, how can we get them.
10. I noticed on Spool Spectrum you mentioned that you suffered from herniated discs and did a great deal of stitchery while recovering. I have the exact same problem and have found that embroidering while recovering from that extremely painful condition is very therapeutic. Do you feel that creating art has healing and therapeutic effects on the artist? Is Art Therapy real?
When you're 6'7" back problems don't really come as a surprise. I was in a bad spot in fall of 2007 and couldn't get out of bed for two weeks. The time surprisingly ended up being a productive one. I was able to escape the confines of my bed through my work, and I found it very calming. This no doubt led to a faster recovery and helped me combat that gaping feeling of not being able to accomplish anything. I am much more careful with my back now. I workout regularly and stretch daily, and that's kept me on my feet. It's comforting to know that I can continue my work if my back acts up again.
11. (bonus question) Do you think there should be a MANBROIDERY backed candidate in the next election, running on the MANBROIDERY party ticket?
I think the work of William Schaff is unbelievably amazing. He's got my vote. http://www.flickr.com/photos/