21 Magnolia Rd. is my childhood story about being raised by seemingly successful, but mentally ill parents in the 1960’s. My mixed media work illustrates my search for the truth about my upbringing, which despite a happy facade, was riddled with addiction, sexual abuse and emotional neglect. I realized early on that life did not have to be miserable. I had two worlds growing up, the one at home and the other one waiting just outside our front door and in my imagination. I learned to see beauty where shadows loomed. Examining the stuff of my childhood has revealed, reinforced, and left some questions still unanswered. I put the past back together, along with myself in the process.
Telling stories about my family over the years, people would always ask,
“How did you turn out so normal?”
“Every company needs a worrier and you’re mine, Mary Kevin!”
My father was a big exec in the music business and tried to run our family the same way. He appeared to know everything and was a charismatic liar. Even at nine, I knew I was being handed a raw deal. My Mom described living with him as walking on eggshells and we ran like the dickens when we heard the garage door go up!
21 Magnolia Rd. was my childhood address in Briarcliff Manor NY, during the sixties. People had no idea what went on in our house; and, most of the time, neither did we. My Mom was an artist who rarely made art and when she did, she was only fleetingly happy due to anxiety, depression, alcoholism and a myriad of physical ailments. I loved her very much and always tried my best to help.
Early on, I worked hard to become a good artist. I relied on art to escape the day to day. We were surrounded by dichotomies; creative brilliance wove its way through lies and stories. Beauty and ugliness were bed-partners and emotional chaos resulted. My parents seemed as good as they were bad. I was the oldest girl of four children and put in charge of the clan.
Rebelling against the misery and experiencing the sheer pleasure of making art has always been my lifeline. Art was my ticket to art school and adulthood where I have been left to ponder my beginnings. Collaging together my past, I tell my childhood story using Polaroid’s, B&W prints, drawings, artifacts, and recreations from memory to build my narrative. Mental illness was only whispered about when I was growing up. 21 Magnolia Rd. is my survival story of family love and hate, alongside the power of the arts to heal. In attempting to paint the picture my way, I find the strength to be myself, and the confidence to make new work.
"I was just lucky, I guess…"
After reviewing her 21 Magnolia Rd. series, photographer and educator, Larry Fink recently described Ms. Filmore’s mixed media prints as “expressive and illuminating familial theatre”.