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Artists Francesca Woodman
Francesca Woodman Photo

Francesca Woodman

American Photographer

Movements and Styles: Surrealism, Modern Photography, Dada and Surrealist Photography

Born: April 3, 1958 - Denver, Colorado

Died: January 19, 1981 - New York City

Francesca Woodman Timeline

Quotes

"Am I in the picture? Am I getting in or out of it? I could be a ghost, an animal or a dead body, not just this girl standing on the corner...?"
Francesca Woodman
"I was inventing a Language for people to see..."
Francesca Woodman
"Real things don't frighten me just the ones in my mind do."
Francesca Woodman
"I finally managed to try to do away with myself, as neatly and concisely as possible.... I would rather die young leaving various accomplishments, some work, my friendship with you, and some other artifacts intact, instead of pell-mell erasing all of these delicate things."
Francesca Woodman
"I feel like I am floating in plasma
I need a teacher or a lover
I need someone to risk being involved with me.
I am so vain
and I am so masochistic.
How can they coexist?"
Francesca Woodman
"I would like words to have the same relationship with my images as the photographs have with the text [quoting from] Nadja by André Breton."
Francesca Woodman

"I feel like I am floating in plasma. I need a teacher or a lover. I need someone to risk being involved with me. I am so vain and I am so masochistic."

Synopsis

Francesca Woodman produced universally commanding and profound images from the age of thirteen. Born into a family of artists, 'art' was her first language. She experienced early exposure to a plethora of exemplary creative people along with countless potential historical, literary, and theoretical influences. Woodman worked with traditional photographic techniques but was consistently performative and experimental in her practice. Many of her works are multi-media, including drawings, selected objects, and sculptures within her photographs. Settings may vary from confined interiors to the expansive outdoors, but Woodman herself is always there. Typically the sole subject, and often naked, she can be found caught entwined within a landscape or edging out of the photographic frame. Interested in the limits of representation, the artist's body is habitually cropped, endlessly concealed, and never wholly captured. Woodman was acutely aware of the evanescent nature of life and of living close to death. She positions the self as too limitless to be contained, and thus reveals singular identity as an elusive and fragmentary notion.

Key Ideas

Woodman was not interested in 'mass culture'. Whilst artists such as Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince re-worked and subverted contemporary film stills and icons of advertising during the late 1970s, Woodman upheld a more timeless view interested in classical myths, commonplace objects, and explorations of nature and the self.
Woodman practiced techniques of long-exposure as means to capture movement, blur, and sometimes total disappearance. She was interested in what photography as a medium does with time, disrupting the linear flow between the past, present, and future. As a female artist, these interests made her work unusual for its time, for whilst Feminist artists were boldly affirming individual presence, Woodman privileged trace, absence, and reflection.
Although Woodman did not have much in common with American mainstream straight photography of her era, it is important to remember that other forms of American and European modernist practice greatly inspired and influenced her work. She had avidly studied Surrealism and knew well the experimental images of Duane Michaels along with those of other American photographers interested in an alternative tradition.
Woodman read stylistically Gothic literature rich with symbols of tombs, derelict and ruined buildings, mirrors, and angels. Many of these stories featured female protagonists forcibly imprisoned for so-called madness or hysteria, and as such considered existence from a liminal perspective where life and death writhe, straggle, and intersect. Woodman strives to make visible the perpetual state of anxiety that she experiences walking through life with death constantly on her mind.
Woodman committed suicide at age 22 and in the shadow of this fact a film of sadness covers her photographs. The viewer looks for clues as to how and why the young, beautiful, and talented woman took her own life. Woodman gives privileged insight to a suicidal mind, and engages the viewer by presenting her personal story as inseparable from her art.

Biography

Francesca Woodman Photo

Childhood

Francesca Woodman was born in Denver in 1958. She was the daughter of two American artists, George Woodman, a painter and photographer who held a teaching post in art criticism at the University of Colorado, and Betty Woodman, an increasingly important ceramic artist. Growing up in Boulder, surrounded entirely by painters, filmmakers, and critics, Francesca was close to her older brother Charles, himself an aspiring video-artist.

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Francesca Woodman Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Francesca Woodman
Interactive chart with Francesca Woodman's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

André BretonAndré Breton
Man RayMan Ray
Duane Michaels
Deborah Turbeville
Hans BellmerHans Bellmer

Personal Contacts

Edith Schloss
Betsy Berne
Sloan Rankin

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
Feminist MovementFeminist Movement

Influences on Artist
Francesca Woodman
Francesca Woodman
Years Worked: 1972 - 1981
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Cindy ShermanCindy Sherman
Nan GoldinNan Goldin
David Armstrong
Elina Brotherus

Personal Contacts

Movements


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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Dr Rebecca Baillie

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Dr Rebecca Baillie
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