While in San Francisco, I caught a of fabulous exhibit of FRANCESCA WOODMAN. The photographs remind me a lot of Man Ray for some reasons and I really loved the etherial quality. I hope you enjoy her work. Some, at once disturbing and difficult to define. Some, I found myself just staring out for a while.
This is the write up from the museum,
“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
It’s difficult at times to find the proper words to describe certain works. You just want to slip the images right under the viewer’s nose, feeling certain he will understand and share the feeling that, yes, nothing need be said. It’s also demands a great effort to evaluate as photographs, pictures that look like rehearsals,
the act of practicing in preparation for being an angel.
The photographs that Francesca Woodman took between 1975 and 1981 belong to this category. They cause the same kind of confusion that’s so common when we speak about love: the ambiguity only increases with the strength of the feelings involved. In these pictures ambiguity reigns sovereign, fruit of the artist’s respect for her
inner world and her curiosity concerning a fragmentary but strong-felt reality.
The influence of surrealism must also be considered for its interpretations of the female body, which represented a break with traditional models of representation. But even in this case, it would be risky to look for influences which, in the long run, might not hold much water. If surrealism sublimated the chance events, Woodman’s
photographs seem to be a complex of combinations, a space for the transitory, for change, but her work has little or nothing to do with the idea of improvisation.
Woodman was photographer and model, subject and object, at the same time. She utilized the female body to develop her own self-knowledge and not some representative but generic model of the world. The images of the body that this young American was experimenting with suggest a diffuse intimacy while tending to dissuade a
voyeuristic approach. Unlike most of the images we are faced with on a daily basis, where the body is treated like a commodity to be used and consumed, or an icon to adore at safe distance, Francesca Woodman employs her body to initiate a dialog with herself. She places her body in familiar settings, though at the limits of our experience,
presenting it as a symbol of receptivity, a meeting place between herself and the rest of the world, a communicative model in which information about her experience is presented and reflected upon. She uses her own body as a model to investigate her own vision and not another’s vision of her body. Woodman projects images and symbols,
hopes and fears onto the female body. She uses it like a gesticulative vector not fully known to her, communicating to the viewer the novelty of her encounter.
On the one hand, this attitude was motivated by the artist’ s own youth, since these pictures were taken when Woodman was in her late teens and early twenties, in the years before she committed suicide. Art critic Kathryn Hixon wrote in her essay “Essential Magic” (Zurich, 1992): “Woodman’s pictures are not de-constructive, but constructive.
She added layers of reflection and mimicry within the photograph to confound the transparent recording of the real. The images become psychological portraits of the identity of the body, rather than identifying physical portraits that reveal the psyche.” To mention the psychological component is very important in the analysis of Woodman’s oeuvre.
The symbolic reconstruction of reality, without doubt, can be considered as a mechanism in the recognition/awareness of reality itself. It’s as though the artist were researching into the formation of her own personality by exhibiting— sometimes even in the photographs themselves — her impulses, reflections, vulnerability, her awareness of the moment,
and the horror of sudden absence. These are psychological portraits: not the visual records of daily existence but episodes in which the expressive capability of the artist’s imagination is intertwined with the richness and intimacy of her own life. Yes, we know, it takes a great effort to become an angel, and yet her pictures are still fluttering somewhere around our minds.
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.