Isolation, Death, Femininity in Francesca Woodman's Photographs - DailyArtDaily.com
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Artists' Stories Eel Series, Roma, May 1977 - August 1978 1977-8 Francesca Woodman 1958-1981 ARTIST ROOMS  Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00348

Published on June 15th, 2017 | by Magda Michalska

Isolation, Death, Femininity in Francesca Woodman’s Photographs

This is going to be a story of beauty, depression and an underappreciated genius which untimely came to an end. Brace yourselves for an unhappy ending and the black-and-white world of Francesca Woodman’s photographs.

Old farms

Francesca Woodman, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976, © Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman, Tate Modern, Francesca Woodman photographs

Francesca Woodman, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976, © Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman, Tate Modern

Francesca was born in Colorado in 1958 to parents who were both artists. The family usually spent summers on an old farm in Tuscany, Italy and Francesca spent there a year attending school. She became interested in photography as a teenager and decided to attend studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island. She spoke fluent Italian and went for an exchange to Rome in 1975.

Portfolios

Francesca Woodman, Eel Series, Roma, May 1977 - August 1978, © Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman, Tate, Francesca Woodman photographs

Francesca Woodman, Eel Series, Roma, May 1977 – August 1978, © Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman, Tate

Having graduated, she moved to New York in 1979 in order to, as she said, “make a career in photography.” She sent the photographs she had taken at university (the ones you can see here) all over the city but her portfolios met with lack of any interest. Woodman started to feel depressed, all the more so that she had broken up with her boyfriend. She made a first suicide attempt in 1980 but she was saved.

Windows

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, 1975–80, Tate, Francesca Woodman photographs

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, 1975–80, © Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman, Tate

After the attempt Francesca moved into her parents. She attended a therapy and things seemed to have got better. Not for long, however. On January 19, 1981, she tried the second time and succeeded. She jumped out of a loft window of a building on the East Side of New York. Her father claimed that his daughter’s suicide was related to unsuccessful applications for funding.

An old drug store

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, 1975–80, Tate, Francesca Woodman photographs

Francesca Woodman, Untitled, 1976, © Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman,Tate

Francesca Woodman’s photographs have always had a disquieting feel to them. The shabby interiors of a former dry goods store where she set up a studio and living space, or frequently visited nearby abandoned houses and other rundown spaces, created an ‘out of time’ atmosphere and a striking contrast to the young, smooth and very ‘alive’ female bodies she photographed.

A woman alone

Francesca Woodman, From Angel Series, Roma, September 1977, © Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman, Tate, Francesca Woodman photographs

Francesca Woodman, From Angel Series, Roma, September 1977, © Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman, Tate

Usually, she used herself as model (“I’m always available” she used to say), but in the majority of the self-portraits her face or body were obscured, veiled, or distorted so that she never really showed herself. The art critic and philosopher Arthur Danto has noted: The difference is that she always shows herself as the same character – the character of a young woman in various mise-en-scenes. I feel that this way her photographs find their way to more young women who feel as isolated, lost and underappreciated as herself.

 


About the Author

Magda, an art historian-to-be, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Wei Wei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.



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