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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Aubrey Longley-Cook gives 'manbroidery' a name in Atlanta


Aubrey Longley-Cook has lived in Atlanta for the past three years, slowly stitching a name for himself. Longley-Cook works in embroidery - mostly small, hoop-shaped works that simultaneously recall and reject the viewer's notions about what to expect from domestic forms. His work has been shown at MINT, Young Blood, as part of Axiom, and he returns this week to Eyedrum, to show as part of MondoHomo's art exhibition. You can keep up with his embroideries and thrift-store collecting at Spool Spectrum.

When did you start embroidering?

I was nineteen and in school at the time. I went to school for animation, actually. I was learning all the techniques of that and in this early stage where it was technique driven and low on creativity. Embroidery was this outlet that I could do more personal work. I found it calming and meditative. All of the projects I was doing, I wouldn’t show it to people as much or bring it to a class. It wasn’t my focus at all, but it blossomed into being equally as important. When I graduated, I decided to just pursue that.

In the FORM anthology that came out last year, you mentioned that your mother influenced your decision to start embroidering.

She did needlepoint when she was pregnant, both with me and my siblings. I think, for her it was a nesting, very maternal type of thing. Obviously, she was a child of ‘70s. It seems like everybody’s mother was doing needlepoint back in the ‘70s. I have one of her pieces on my wall and it’s quite lovely. It was about heirlooms, which was initially how I was approaching it. The work was so personal that it made sense to give to siblings, for wedding presents and that sort of thing.

When did it move beyond that?

I started looking on the internet to find other, similar artists, because it’s not the most common thing. I was very surprised to find as many artists out there as there are. It’s an incredible online community of different stitchers. There’s this one guy called Johnny Murder who lives in Portland. He’s coined this term, “manbroidery,” about men that embroider and just that movement of masculine stitch-work.

I’ve always found that to be what’s really alluring: using a male perspective on a traditionally female art form and using that as a platform for queer art as well.

  • "Keyring"

Why do you think embroidery works for queer art?

I think it’s like I said before, the contrast of a masculine perspective on a traditionally female form. Beyond that, the fact that it’s such a domestic act, there’s something submissive about it, but none of these are really the right word. There’s something very held back about it, the size of the pieces, and how it’s about texture. It’s so different from a sculptor doing giant brass or bronze sculpture that’s such an out-in-the-world, giant statement. You have to come to it. You have to approach it on a subtle level.

What can you tell me about your process?

It comes down to the repetition. That draws me in – the calming nature of each individual stitch. There’s something about just the speed of it. It brings you to that level where the world recedes and the hoop itself is the focus. There’s something calming and beautiful about that. The process becomes sacred, almost like you’re channeling something.

"Undead Thoroughbred," "Croaker," "Coop Spook," and "Elephantom."
  • "Undead Thoroughbred," "Croaker," "Coop Spook," and "Elephantom."

Your latest series, Runaway, seems to combine animation with embroidery.

Yeah, now I’m coming back to that, bringing those two passions together. With the dog series I’m taking inspiration from the internet, animated GIF culture. Those are incredibly time consuming, drawing frame by frame. Like, I have to keep the frames to a small amount. Right now I’m doing a series of fifteen for the dog. I’ve been working on that project since February [laughs] and it’s going to be a one-second loop. So, I’m condensing five months of work into one second, but it will loop for infinity.

Mondo Art opens at Eyedrum on Thurs., May 27 at 6 pm.

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