1 year ago
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Fortuitous, I believe, is what they call it.
Something happening by chance.
The above is a picture of and by Francesca Woodman, holding a shell as a talisman.
Thanks to my old friend Net Flix (an old high-school chum), I received a prize-winning documentary just a week or so ago titled “The Woodmans,” which told the strange, true, bizarre and ultimately sad story of the daughter of a family of artists, Francesca.
Back in the seventies, while still a teenager, her diary shows she felt elation at the work she was turning out, depression at the failure of a romantic relationship, the pressure because of the lack of appreciation of her extraordinary art and what might be termed her message.
And perhaps above all, her exploration of the human body in space and of the genre of self-portraiture. In her work there are hundreds of pictures of the female nude, and the nude was almost always Francesca herself.
As one critic put it, she “demonstrated a desire to beat the code of appearances." Surely she did that – in such pictures as:
"…She flings her arms back at the camera, so that her upturned breasts and open mouth, screaming in fright or celebration, -- present an image of the liberated psyche in flight."
Or this one. “She physically encased herself in a museum glass case... We see Woodman's left breast and thigh pressed against the glass as she squats. ... Her head, moreover, appears cut from her torso... While her right hand exerts pressure against the glass, her left seems to caress the form."
On January 19, 1981, she committed suicide – at the age of 22! - by jumping out of a loft window in New York. An acquaintance wrote, "Things had been bad, there had been therapy, things had gotten better, but then…”
Today, so many years after her death, Francesca Woodman has become, in the art world, not just an artist of substance but one with an almost monumental reputation.
Her work is in the permanent collections of museums, here and around the world, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art — and her style has so influenced other professional and amateur photographers that effects she pioneered now appear in commercial and fashion photography.
In one of her photographs of a Victorian tombstone, you can read the inscription: “To Die is Gain.”
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings)