Sunday, August 12, 2012

Berowne's 130

(Also submitted to Three-Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "E" is for "Extraordinary")
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.
Both of her parents were artists; Francesca chose photography as her art form.
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.
I am poorly equipped as an art critic. I must leave that to others. What fascinated me about Francesca’s work, as a former cinematographer, were her methods, her experiments with exposure and composition, her constantly-recurring themes, even her props.
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)

37 comments:

rel said...

so many talented artists suffer depression to the nth degree. I wonder if it's a neccessity for great work?
rel

christopher said...

I knew without knowing that Francesca took herself away from us abruptly and finally just like a leap from a window. Thanks for your own version of things. Some of the great talents cannot last. The short span of these lives seem consistent, one to the next, consumed as if a too hot flame. I think the human family has coined a phrase for them. They are all to a man and woman

too good for this world.

What they leave behind lifts us all up. Francesca has done so this week.

Berowne said...

That's a very generous and perceptive comment, christopher; thanks so much.

Tess Kincaid said...

Suggesting this to my friend Net Flix too...

Roger Owen Green said...

I'm reminded of the Beach Boys' title I Just Wasn't Made for These Times.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Berowne said...

Tess K: "Suggesting this to my friend Net Flix too..."
You knew Net? That's fantastic!

awakenedwords said...

Thank you for this, knowing more about the artist is something we endeavor to do more often.

Heaven said...

Thanks for sharing more info on Francesca. She was very talented, and wanted to burn all of herself early in life ~

Leslie: said...

There is a fine line between genius and insanity. Who said that? Anyway, I know this because of my late husband and my still living daughter. Sad.

Helen said...

I wasn't familiar with Francesca's work before today ... which is what the Mag is all about ~ learning, experiencing, creating.
I find her work fascinating on so many levels ... nicely done, Sir.

Dana Dampier said...

Thank you for sharing a piece of Francesca with us. I really enjoyed reading this!

Linda said...

Art composition requires time and vision. Getting the details the way you want them for an artistic rendering, requires so much time dwelling in the expressive areas of your brain. If those areas are dark and depressing, I can understand how a person could become totally absorbed in depression. It can become hard to disassociate reality and artistic vision since they are both connected. Thank you for sharing this inside scoop, Berowne.

Berowne said...

You've analyzed it beautifully, Linda - thanks.

Helena said...

Tribute with grace to this tragic young artist. She really did leave a legacy behind.

Irish Gumbo said...

I may need to consult with this Net Flix, sounds like someone I should know ;)

I read this before I wrote my own entry,and I'm glad I did. Good to get to know more of the person, and it informed my work. Perhaps she was too good for this world, sadly enough.

Kutamun said...

You capture her tragic essence well here , Berowne , why are so many of these types only ever fully appreciated in hindsight ?, i think because they are dangerous in that they challenge our perceptions of " what is real " , only when they are safely gone does our trembling herd mind dare approach them .

Karen S. said...

I just wish she'd been born later in life. Such a sad waste to live so short a life.

Nicholas V. said...

Thank you for this insight. A tortured soul produces so much beauty...

Berowne said...

What a great way to start the week, with fine comments by Nicholas V, Karen S, Helena, Irish G, Kutamun, Dana D, Helen, Leslie, Heaven and awakenedwords. My thanks.

Ginny Brannan said...

Fascinating story of an artist's life cut too short, and talent lost. Nicely done tie-in with The Mag's photo prompt!

the best part of my day... said...

This is so eloquent...I'm pleased I came across your blog. Looking forward to more. Cheers.

Little Nell said...

I enjoyed your sympathetic piece about this amazingly tortured and talented artist.Thank you.

jill said...

Iv seen these pictures before enjoyed seeing them again and reading about her.

Stafford Ray said...

Sad story and one I understand well, unfortunately.

Kathe W. said...

Thanks for this information- I had read about her also, but did not know of the Net Flix DVD- it's now in my queue. Cheers.

Lynette Killam said...

I'm excited to learn about this woman, and will definitely research her further. Thanks for sharing this piece with us...:)

Rinkly Rimes said...

'To die is gain' is a dreadful message, but it does seem that dying young enhances a reputation.Maybe 'To live long is loss' might be as true. Rather sad.

Berowne said...

Lynette K: "I'm excited to learn about this woman, and will definitely research her further."
I recommend the documentary "The Woodmans."

jaerose said...

Thank you for introducing me to her story..it's one I shall look into further..what was haunting for me was the photo of her suspended in the air..and the wings..and the way in which she 'chose' to die..I hope for one moment she flew and did not fall..though perhaps we know better..i hope inside that is how she felt as she left this world...jae

Ellecee said...

I feel as so many others who have written comments. How sad to lose such an interesting talent. Just from those two prints I seemed to feel her urge to move out of the ordinary scheme of things, like a ghost hovering above it all or a bird escaping from its shell. Interesting - thanks so much.

Lmkazmierczak said...

Yes, you got it right; E is for Extraordinary...Thanks for the informative post♫

RMP said...

wow. there is definitely something hauntingly beautiful in her art and in her story. sometimes I wonder if it is a prerequisite for artists.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Berowne, thank you for spotlighting a true groundbreaker in the field. Depression runs rampant with artists because we often find great beauty in the lows, as well as the highs one may occasionally experience. My blog is all about that.

Francesca will live on in her work. Perhaps she had said all she needed to say, but I wish she had gotten a more varied group of mental health professionals. God knows they have saved my life as a manic depressive with PTSD.

Thank you, Berowne, and thank you, Francesca... God keep you in peace. Amy

Berowne said...

Linkazmierczak: "Yes, you got it right; E is for Extraordinary."
Fine comment; thanks.

Kay L. Davies said...

So sad, Berowne, such a young woman, with so much talent, but I can understand completely the fine line between creativity and depression.
K

Bee's Blog said...

I think this week's prompt has led many of us to investigate Francesca Woodman further. I know it did me and I was saddened by what I read of her short life. Sadly, so many creative people suffer from depression and it may only take one event if no consequence to send them into despair. Woodman's last journal entry does not speak of despair but neither does it speak of joy. Thank you for sharing this.

Margaret said...

I truly enjoyed this background information. I will have to net flix the movie. Thanks

 
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