Fractured gardens: Filippucci’s response to war in Ukraine highlighted at Five Points

by Tracey O’Shaughnessy, Republican-American Newspaper
February 23, 2023

The flower stems in Sandra Filippucci’s mixed media works are dark. So pitch, they are nearly invisible. They move upward with a crumbly impotence toward a blood-red background. Wherever these flowers are blooming is an obscure, agitated space, filled with violent lashing blacks and dribbles of sooty gray.The blossoms themselves seem synthetic and unraveled, like shiny, shredded strands of mylar balloons. The feelings they evoke – joy flogged with fear, innocence shattered into disintegration, are of a garden despoiled.

Filippucci’s searing “Ukraine Flower Series: The Power of Defiance,” now at Five Points Gallery, is the artist’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Many titles – Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv – reference specific sites or events. Occasionally, Filippucci will annotate them, in graphite cursive citations of dates and devastation. Yet, most of the works speak for themselves, flower-like shapes of Ukraine’s pulverized garden. The works look like paintings, large, broad expanses of paint. Flower petals take the form of the cornette of a nun’s wimple, or the mashed remains of a vibrantly colored balloon. These motifs are often crushed together and mangled, picking up pieces of material like a tossed wad of gum. Here is a tube. There is a ribbon of netting. Over there are dagger-like shards of glass. All of them fuse into gobs of the flora and fuselage, a nasty but captivating clump of the natural and the martial.

War Babies, (Ukraine Flower Series), January 2023. Mixed media on custom wood panel, 42 x 60 in

War Babies, (Ukraine Flower Series), Jan 2023. Mixed media on custom wood panel, 42 x 60

In “War Babies,” Filippucci’s most colorful indictment of the war, a flower blooms with improbable vividness against an inky black background. The petals seem ripped apart or badly glued back together. In the bottom right, an unmistakable image of a fetus, ensconced in a putty gray orb, hangs from the petal through a single pink thread. Above, what should be a sunflower yellow petal bursts into swirling flames that dash malevolently across the canvas.

This is one of the rare color images in work that is largely monotone. Most of the works feature the oddly immaculate ivory of a wedding or first communion dress. But the buds tear, fold outward or curve, like grace being violated.

In “Mariupol Maternity Hospital: Angel Wings,” a reference to Russia’s March 9, 2022, attack on the maternity hospital in Mariupol, strips of white sheets ooze with drips of black that drizzle toward the ochre field below.Filippucci’s brush strokes alternately flog and drizzle, effectively conveying power and anguish.

FILIPPUCCI - Mariupol Maternity Hospital: Angel Wings. Mixed media on rag paper, 40 x 60 in

Mariupol Maternity Hospital: Angel Wings. Mixed media on rag paper, 40 x 60 in

Unsurprisingly, for Filippucci, who has spent 30 years focusing on the singular figure of Joan of Arc, these works are largely monochromatic.

This is the garden of good and evil, a dynamic as fierce as Joseph’s wrestling match with the angel.

The works are filled with religious imagery, including, in one case, a coiled black snake that could be mistaken for plastic tubing. Like her brush strokes, which can be broad and ferocious or delicate and tender, Filippucci pits the heavenly with the hellish, and there is no mistaking which is which.