Lusty, Not Crusty: An Artist With a Code
The sun-hot Fox Maxy gave an artist’s talk at UCSC last Wednesday evening ahead of a screening of her first feature length film Gush. After fifteen years of working in relative obscurity, Maxy’s work has gained much deserved attention and praise following a successful run of screenings at important film festivals and contemporary art museums, including receiving Sundance Film Fesitval’s 2022 Merata Mita Fellowship. Maxy seems to be taking it all in stride, and she presented a thoughtful informal discussion of her work that was both inspiring and informational.
Fox Maxy’s background reveals a culturally rich set of contrasts. She moved from San Diego County to New York City at 17, interested in fashion, and worked for a French production company building sets and preparing runway events. This gave her experience in the commercial side of the art world, where she learned the ins and outs of an industry in which marketing and sales reign supreme. She also worked at Vogue Magazine and haunted the halls of Conde Nast, becoming disenchanted with the heights of the fashion world even while she learned from the creative people she met.
Asking Questions about Identity and Safety
In 2016 she’d had enough of the fashion industry and was inspired by events happening in North Dakota where people were protesting a pipeline being built through native lands. She took the motivation of this moment and decided to move home to the Mesa Grande reservation in North County, San Diego, to learn more about her culture and language. As Maxy immersed herself in her native culture, she also began forming her own style and personal code as an artist.
Maxy believes in art as a daily practice, in extracting herself from the “chitter chatter” of what people think, and in using each film to practice and develop skills for the next project. She believes that there is nothing good without the bad and she considers filming the good part about filmmaking and editing the necessary bad part. She also believes it is important to take a hands-on approach to every aspect of filmmaking, both out of necessity and to understand the craft to make decisions informed by experience in future projects.
Her Version of Horror
Fox Maxy is, as the title states (and she made clear in her talk), on her way to making horror films. Along the path, she is creating work with an amalgam of disparate influences. Rejecting cliched storytelling about the indigenous experience, she is punk rock for her DIY ethic, emo for the melancholy of digging through the archives of her past, postmodern for her rejection of traditional aesthetics in favor of originality and energy, high fashion for her understanding of style, gothic in her sense of morbid mystery, and Hitchcockian in her pacing and framing. This pastiche of styles assaults the viewer with indecipherable experience refusing to simplify a traumatic and beautiful set of concepts.
As is the case in extreme grief or trauma, meaning in Maxy’s work eludes us and instead we are confronted with a haunting series of images and sounds, a layered tapestry of feeling without sense. It is a carnival in a foreign country, a party in which we got too drunk, an acid trip teetering on the verge of going bad, a ceremony interrupted by a storm, a celebration honoring the dead. It is filmic power at its finest pushing us to go beyond our limits of comfort, threatening to break through our consciousness like a hallucination. Gush is young, fun, and deep art for the brave and open minded.
This artist’s talk and screening was presented as part of the annual Visual and Media Cultures Colloquia at UCSC. These events are “a collaboration between the graduate programs in Film and Digital Media Department and Visual Studies in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department.” This event was free and open to the public, and I highly recommend checking out Fox Maxy whenever you get the chance.