Graffiti artist Aubrie Costello chats about her love for art, her custom-made pieces, and how the City of Brotherly Love inspires her every day.
Aubrie Costello has been making art since she was a child, which ranged from drawing and painting, to making clothes for her Barbie dolls. After graduating from Moore College of Art & Design, she became enraptured by the rawness of graffiti, and the way these works of art interacted with both the environment and people. Today, she takes inspiration from that, which can be seen in her latest series, The Unravel. Showcased around the city for passerbys to see, and for nature to take its course, Costello's artworks are physical interpretations of letting things go.
Philadelphia Style spoke with the artist to discuss when she decided to pursue art, what inspired her for her latest series of work, and how our eclectic city became such an inspiration to her.
When did your love for art begin? AUBRIE COSTELLO: My true love affair with art started when I began traveling and studying the art I found outside of the gallery walls and in the streets, specifically graffiti art. Graffiti resonated with me as a truly authentic, interactive art form. It is an alluring illustration of voyeurism and an intoxicating dance between the writer and the observer. I’ve always been a bit of a voyeur, so my love of art grew tenfold when I started really looking around me at what the brave souls were making and putting out there in the streets for the world to see. It felt genuine and pure, so naturally, I wanted in.
How did you get involved with Silk Graffiti? AC: Silk Graffiti started close to a decade ago. My body of work at the time was very different: I was creating elaborate installations consisting of miniature pastel drawings hung on the walls, and big assemblages of objects that I collected and bound in strands of luscious silk, piled high in gallery spaces. The idea to switch gears and experiment [came] to me on a hot and humid summer day in my studio in North Philly. I used to sit with all the windows wide open and instead of drawing, I'd be listening to the life on the streets below me, and writing down the things I'd hear. From bits of conversations to blaring hip-hop lyrics, I wrote down everything that I eavesdropped from the outside world, [and] my collected words became these precious mantras pulled from everyday life, begging to be elevated.
During this time, I [learned] about the history of Philly graffiti, and I got really interested in street art and its bold artists. I fell in love with the writing on the walls. I was inspired to create something of my own for the streets so I took out a strand of shredded silk, some dirty nails, and started writing on the wall with it, spelling out a word from my notebook. The first piece I made was outside my studio door, on the wall. It said "LUST" in black dupioni silk.
Tell me about your latest series, The Unravel. AC: I'm installing pieces outside and 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. Nothing is too precious. It's an exercise in letting go and letting things unfold, unravel.
Can your work be purchased and custom made? AC: Absolutely! I love to construct custom pieces for client's homes, and I also love to make romantic, unique pieces for wedding venues. I shred yards of opulent silk and design custom luxe Silk Graffiti installations by writing your most beloved words, quotes, and mantras intuitively by hand in billows of rich fabric. I'd love nothing more than to handcraft an original piece to inspire you.
You have created a unique voice for yourself in the world of graffiti. What advice would you have for someone trying to find his or her own style? AC: I consider myself a fiber artist with a deep respect for graffiti. My advice? Get schooled. Learn the history of the art form, pay attention to the styles, hands, cultures that shaped an artistic movement, and give credit where credit is due [but] honor your own voice, and bravely offer your audience a fresh perspective if you desire to. Pick a material that challenges you and seduces you so that you’re enticed to explore it fully for a long time. Give yourself time to experiment, the space to find your voice, and permission to evolve creatively. Staying open to that process is key. Oh, and keep it simple.
What is your favorite thing about Philadelphia? AC: Its surprises and its people. Philly is like a big breathing, growing entity—a sprawling, evolving, shifting, chaotic urban forest. It’s mad here, but I love how inspired I feel after catching a little moment amid the hustle. Those subtle, revealing moments I catch while strolling around the city streets inspire me.