Francesca Woodman, a photographer who was followed by Art.

Francesca Woodman, whose haunting world of mirrored reality is now on view at the Guggenheim museum, not only disrupts the order of forms, time and space, but also examines the limits of photography as medium. She uses the “self” in most of her photographs, however works of the artist reach far beyond the genre of self portraiture. Even when she places herself against the mirror of her film camera it is as if to question the capacity of the photograph to reveal the truth about the subject. Self Portrait at Thirteen which is considered to be the earliest work of the photographer portrays her sitting in front of the camera holding cable release cord that like a string connects her to the “the eye” of the camera; the artist looks away with the same it seems deliberate gesture as Rembrandt in his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man fixes his gaze ahead..Francesca Woodman was fascinated with space and its possibilities within a two dimensional photography. She positioned her body in relation to other objects and scattered them into series of photographic events examining the condition of subject in space. Often set in barren reality of empty rooms, shattered windows and peeling walls she played with an idea of appearance-disappearance and merging with objects. In the photograph from Space series taken inProvidence in 1977 she stands against the wall covering her body with the wallpaper and leaving visible only parts of herself. She blends with the wall, takes on characteristics of the space thus undermining the importance of the body. The artist often portrayed her “self” and the body somewhere between presence and absence.The way Andrei Tarkovsky was “sculpting in time” his films Francesca Woodman was sculpting her photographs in light. Often precisely constructed scenes seem like a chance meeting of time and space in a particular moment fixed on the celluloid film. Photograph House #4  taken inProvidence in 1976 shows the blurry figure of the artist positioned in the empty fireplace. All objects in the image seem off balance and as if in the process of falling.  In contrast to Roland Barthes who viewed photography as death of a moment photographs of Woodman always give a feeling of a continuous movement. Often using long shutter speeds she emphasized duration of time in her works. The ghostly figures that are so common in her imagery balance on the edge of appearance and disappearance, they are vague and concrete, ephemeral and lasting.Symbolism that is very apparent in Woodman’s photographs creates a whole array of additional meanings and space for interpretations. She played with text, that sometimes having no coherent relation with the image would provoke us to more thoughts.. Then at some point I did not need to translate the notes, they went directly to my fingers… is written on a photograph where she leans against the wall and presses her fingers as if on the keyboard.. Wall as the piano and artist.. as the wall..  The beauty of such association could only be compared to the beauty of chance meeting of Lautremounts’s umbrella and sewing machine.Her photographs are personal; they are vulnerable and tragic as well as truthful and sensual. We don’t know if they are the “window” into the tormented mind of an artist, we don’t know if there is a different “self” behind her self portraits. What we do know is that Francesca Woodman was an artist with an extremely consolidated personality and her works impact us intensely in many, unexplainable ways. It seems that… she didn’t chase art, but was chased by it and as Brazilian painter Ivan Serpa said about the fate of great artists- was hit by it in the back..Francesca Woodman, born in Rhode Island in the family of artists started photographing at the age of 13. When she was 22 she committed suicide jumping from the window of her loft inNew York. The number of works that she was able to create in such a short creative period, and their uniqueness seems almost unimaginable. Her works were viewed through the prisms of surrealism, conceptualism, feminist photography, post-minimal photography, European modernism, analyzed in terms of photographic tendencies of the 70s and the artists who could possibly influence her. However it seems impossible to fit the works of Woodman into any one  “-ism”, they are so complex and original that reach beyond any categorization or context, beyond artist’s lifetime, and simply beyond..any given time. They are works of total art.


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