If you grow up in a family of artists, it’s not always easy to be an artist yourself. Instead of being “the creative one” and standing out, your creativity is given automatic comparison. Any artistic freedom and open-ended exploration of ideas can be dampened by a sense of a pressure to compete or to perform at a certain level. It can drive you away from art entirely.
With an artist for a mother and two artistically talented older sisters, Maggie SanFilippo was not always sure that she wanted to enter the fray. She followed her own path. But – and here’s the thing – that path seems to have always pointed back to art.
Doing costume design in the film industry and working for years as an entrepreneur in the area of vintage and hand-made furniture, SanFilippo never strayed far from art, even if she didn’t think of herself as an artist. She works in fields where design and aesthetics are central. Her furniture work in particular had her hustling to rescue and refurbish furniture, applying some imagination to give life back to thrift store finds and in that way bring new ideas to life.
She found herself naturally drawn to musicians and photographers. Maybe she tricked herself in a very quiet way into becoming an artist despite the fact that she wouldn’t have given herself that title. Or maybe she was just waiting for the right encouragement.
When her boyfriend and business partner, musician Ainsley Hubbard encouraged SanFilippo to take her occasional sketches and run with them, the moment seemed right and she did.
In Conjuring Marz, SanFilippo’s show at Sagebrush Café and her first solo show – you can see the process of “running with it” at work in a collection of pieces combining sketching and water color that become a sort of jazz-couture style: firm lines and inventive improvisations of color, gesture and attitude that bring to mind both Ella Fitzgerald and Coco Channel.
And there is a very deliberate harkening back to the past in Conjuring Marz. SanFilippo was inspired to create some pieces for the show while she was watching Feud, the television series about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, figures of glamour and great emotion – and a scrappy determination to insist on themselves and on their own success.
The style that is at work in Conjuring Marz calls on a certain understatement that hides in plain sight. Many of the pieces contrast vivid splashes of color with images of composure and self-possession. There is something in the drawn figures that the color points to, but the faces aren’t giving anything away.
So the joy that seems to shout itself from the bright and quite direct works in the show becomes at least a little bit complicated. There is something else here too.
Many of the figures in the drawings are wearing sunglasses, holding something back, maintaining a cool secret. That, in a way, is what elegance is – flair that is at the same time somehow restraint.
In Conjuring Marz, SanFilippo gives us a set of pieces that seem like the result of a meditation on this dance between the said and the unsaid. There is a sense that the stage sees what the actress wants to show but those inevitable off-stage incidents, those episodes in the wings are what stand behind the knowing smile when the actress takes her bow.
Showing @ Sagebrush Cafe
42104 50th Street West
Lancaster, CA 93536