Remembering Francesca Woodman
If there is only one thing that you take from this post, I hope it is a recommendation to watch a documentary film, The Woodmans, which is being broadcast in the US on PBS (in most markets, on December 22). I have not yet seen this documentary, but I know something about the underlying story, and I must say that it is a remarkable story.
Francesca Woodman was a brilliant photographer, born into a family of artists, who committed suicide at age 22. Her work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions (a current exhibition is taking place at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.) She has now been the subject of seven major retrospective catalogues of her work:
- Ann Gabhart, Francesca Woodman : Photographic Work – Wellesley College Museum – April 9 – June 8, 1986.
- Herman Lux, Francesca Woodman: Photographic Works.
- Hervé Chandès, Francesca Woodman.
- Marian Goodman Gallery, Francesca Woodman: Photographs 1975-1980.
- Isabella Pedicini, Francesca Woodman: The Roman Years Between Skin and Film.
- Chris Townsend, Francesca Woodman.
- Corey Keller, Francesca Woodman.
(The last two books are in print, easily available, and excellent).
Francesca Woodman (1958-1981) was an artist decisively of her time, yet her photographs retain an undeniable immediacy. Thirty years after her death, they continue to inspire audiences with their dazzling ambiguities and their remarkably rich explorations of self-portraiture and the body in architectural space. This retrospective, the first in the United States in more than two decades, explores the complex body of work produced by the young artist until her suicide at age 22. Together with Woodman’s artist books and videos, the photographs on view form a portrait of an artist engaged with major concerns of her era — femininity and female subjectivity, the nature of photography — but devoted to a distinctive, deeply personal vision.
Here are some of Woodman’s photographs. Woodman’s favorite subject was herself, and all of these are self-portraits.
The first was taken when the artist was 13:
Here is Self-Portrait Talking to Vince:
Here is her Polka Dots:
It seems to me that all of these photographs illustrate the concerns mentioned above, “femininity and female subjectivity [and] the nature of photography.” Many more Woodman photographs can easily be found on the Web. (You can start with an extensive set of links provided in a Wikipedia article on her. I should mention that some of Woodman’s photographs have nudity, and reviewers who are offended should avoid those photographs.)
And again, if these images or Woodman’s story has intrigued you, I encourage you to watch the upcoming PBS special on her.