For as long as I can remember, I have been attracted to words. On summer days, I used to sit in my studio in North Philly with all the windows open + listen to the life in the streets below me + jot down the things I overheard. I wrote down everything that I eavesdropped from the outside world on random scraps of paper. On my day-to-day, I texted myself bits of other people’s conversations. I'd hear a catcall in the street + memorialize it on a paper napkin. I kept a running list of hip hop lyrics coming from passing cars. I saved old emails + texts from lovers. I typed line after line of notes in my iPhone + filled up a lot of notebooks.
At first, I wasn't quite sure why I was salvaging these words + compiling these lists. It just felt really important to hold on to them this way. By writing them down, it was like I was stopping time. The words collected from the world around me became my written relics + mantras, poignant, significant, pulled from everyday life, begging to be elevated.
So on one hot day, I took out a few strands of shredded silk, my hammer, some dirty nails, + started writing on the wall with them, spelling out a word from my notebook. The first piece I made was outside of my studio door, on the wall. It said "LUST" in big black silk block letters. I tried to mimic a Philly handstyle while writing, particularly when forming the “S”. The finished installation looked like a piece of crude, breathing graffiti as the breeze took it + it started fluttering against the old wall…
That's how it all started.
My works begin as ephemeral installations of the simple words I've amassed. The found words, infused with a rich past + distinctive history, are re-appropriated to breathe new life + tell a new story. They are created out of the visceral, cathartic act of destroying yards of opulent silk. Outdoors, they live as intimate conversations with passersby. They end faded, torn, weathered, revealing the many forms our mere words + reflective thoughts can take. For my latest series, The Unravel, I'm installing pieces outside to be discovered + leaving them there for the elements to do what they want with them, turning them into a beautiful mess. Nature is an essential medium to the project. When exposed to the elements, the pieces are destroyed. They deteriorate, affirming that in nature, everything falls apart.
I create my Silk Graffiti installations using Dupioni silk, a luxe material traditionally used in dressmaking + decors. I pick up my silk from a fabric store on Philadelphia's historic Fabric Row, straight pins from a trimmings shop next door, + nails from the local hardware store down the street. I shred the silk by hand then intuitively hand-form letters onto the wall to spell out the quotes I've collected. The tattered silk, scattered pins + nails tell a story in themselves. They show my search. My hand can be felt in the strands of ripped fabric + imperfect text spelling out my phrases. Natural elements deconstruct my silk messages into more haunting, tangled webs as they mature. That’s my favorite part.
It only takes a couple of words to tell a good story. A single word can evoke something very different in each of us. The same word can tell a tale that's tragic, romantic, heartbreaking, or hopeful, depending on who is reading it. Keep an eye out for my next story whipping in the wind on a street near you...
- XOAC -
#SilkGraffitiByAubrieCostello | #TheUnravel