” A lot of photography is making records of people, as objects, friends. It’s like organizing a wardrobe—in terms of size etc.”
Francesca Woodman was an American photographer and mixed-media artist in the 70’s who, after her death as age 22, was heralded as a prodigy by the art world. More recently her work has experienced a resurgence of interest following the release of a documentary about her life related through the views of her parents, “The Woodmans,” was released 2010.
Her work is at once compelling, overt, and extremely intimate. Her photographs and short films mainly includes self-portraits depicting a ghostly nude female figure merging with her environment. Her face is nearly always covered or obscured through blur.
near the end of her life, she wrote and published a collection of her work, which combined images and handwritten thoughts on the pages of an Italian geometry text book titled Some Disordered Interior Geometries (1980) that provided a glimpse into her psyche.
“Now we come to the passage. You can just see a little peep of the passage in Looking-glass House, if you leave the door of our drawing room wide open: and it’s very like our passage as far as you can see, only you know it may be quite different on beyond.” – Francesca Wooman
“Things looked funny because my pictures depend on an emotional state… I know this is true and I thought about this for a long time. Somehow it made me feel very, very good.” Francesca Woodman.
Woodman’s musings were the reflection of a young woman struggling with conflicts concerning identity and the interpersonal. Her struggle seems evident in her work where, challenged to connect meaningfully with others (she never felt she , “fit in,” according to her mother), she literally merged with her environs…
often to the point of almost complete disappearance, it was as if she melted into the background…
becoming nearly invisible. Gone.
At age 22, Woodman committed suicide by jumping from the top of a building.
It is difficult not to interpret her death through the lens of her life…her art.
Hers was a struggle of identity, of placement of self…of feeling apart from others.
And from that struggle came what appears to be a desire and feeling for refuge in the backgrounds of life...of living.
And from this understanding, her choice of death correlates with her choice of life, as an artist.
Art critic Arthur Danto said of Woodman’s photographs,
“It is impossible to view her work without being drawn into the vast questions it raises about life, art and the meaning and embodiment of sex…. Her work unfolds over time like the oeuvre of a brilliant and precocious poet, like Keats or Rimbaud, whose voice is present in every line.”
Francesca Woodman was a tremendous, unique, and…fragile talent. I hope you are moved by her work as much as I am, it touches the primitive parts of what it is to be human…to me: desire, curiosity, sadness, solitude…and the need to be connected, to another.