Francesca Woodman and the burden of art...

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by batwister, Jan 17, 2012.

  1. batwister

    batwister Member

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    I'm quite surprised to have only just discovered this young photographer, who tragically took her life at 22 leaving behind some remarkable work. In many ways her photographs are almost proto-Flickr. That adolescent female obsession with moody self-portraits that's become an all too familiar trademark here. Of course, Francesca Woodman's work is somewhat more expressive and mature - in the artistic sense and in terms of craft.

    I'm just beginning to look at her work, but after reading quite a few articles on her, I have to admit being more fascinated by her story. It's one of pushy parents and art becoming more important than life.

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=qu9LSFFnn54

    If anyone has seen it and knows of her work, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. Also, if anyone could let me know where I could watch it, that would be a bonus!
     
  2. rrankin

    rrankin Member

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    I started a thread on the Large Format Photography Forum a few weeks ago on the show PBS is/was showing called 'The Woodmans'. People seemed to have pretty strong feelings about it all. The show is also available on Netflix if it is no longer on PBS. I liked the show, cringed at the parents and thought Francesca's work was pretty interesting. Seemed to me that if the parent's weren't so self-obsessed, they would have known their daughter was headed for trouble. But the fact that the family profited so much from her suicide was troubling.

    Richard
     
  3. batwister

    batwister Member

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    I've watched some clips on the PBS website, but it's not available on Netflix here in the UK. Something struck me about the clips and got me thinking about the nature of the artist and how difficult it is for them to survive today. It seems she had the real sensitivity and pureness of spirit of a true artist (unlike her parents it seems), which was destroyed in the end by their attitudes and that of the art world she was trying to get into. The fact that she was able to produce such great work in spite of this is surprising. It seems to confirm my idea that artists should work in complete obscurity today.
     
  4. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I too saw the show on PBS.

    I'm not totally sure that "self-obsessed" is the right term for the parents, although it is at least partly right.

    Both parents are and were artists, apparently consumed by their own art. The way it struck me was that they seemed to consider what their daughter was going through to be in some ways "normal" and, once they realized she was in trouble, unable to see that their daughter's art wasn't the healing "therapy" that she needed, even if might have been the sort of therapy they would have sought for themselves.
     
  5. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Looking at some of her work I got the distinct feeling of a lonely child, craving attention, precocious, and needing love, taking nudes of herself to try to gain the attention of first her parents, then anyone. Very self indulgent, and slightly unhinged.

    The descriptions of the "artsy" types who later "discovered" her after her death sounds much like a curator at an art exhibit, who gayly describes in great detail what the artist was thinking and trying to achieve. When actually, the picture was accidentally taken while loading up the camera.

    Anyways, here is more info on her...http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2011/jan/24/long-exposure-francesca-woodman/
     
  6. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    Isn't that what you just did?


    Anyway I saw the PBS doc and it was the first I had heard of Francesca. I love her work and think it is brilliant, and having known many people of different circumstances who have killed themselves I don't blame her parents, myself or Obama for her sad exit. It's just the cost of that kind of sensitivity and creative brilliance, sometimes, unfortunately.
     
  7. mdarnton

    mdarnton Member

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    I saw about her elsewhere and just got the recent book. Interesting. . . I have a pile of my own pix from about the same time (my own surreal blurry self-images in dilapidated rooms are from 1972, I think) that are similar, even to being shot on 6x6. I think that was not unusual, and a definite trend in the early 70s. What influenced me at the time was Duane Michaels. Get a bit down the page on this link, and you see a lot of stuff that's similar, but almost certainly predates Woodman's, (and mine of course--I'm only claiming to be one of many nobodies following the same trend): http://zoonzum.blogspot.com/2010/01/fotografia-feita-de-emocoes-duane.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 19, 2012
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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  9. Kerik

    Kerik Member

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  10. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    Thanks, Duane is also new to me and I like what I've googled so far. I can definitely see where he probably influenced Francesca, but
    she shines in her own right.
     
  11. mdarnton

    mdarnton Member

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    Yeah, that's what I get for being polite. I don't think she really does, and I think she was very late to the table. What she does have, though, is a large body of work to sell, a colorful personal history, and she's dead, by her own hand, even--all things that galleries just LOVE to push.
     
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  12. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    I saw the film when they screened it at the Museum of Fine Arts last spring here in Boston. There were aspects of her parents that I found a little troubling, but on the whole, I think they saw her for the very good artist that she was, and that they loved her, but weren't able to recognize that she might have issues with depression.

    Her work feels mature for her age, but it still feels like student work to me. I think she was a bit more intense and prolific than many art students, and I suspect that had she lived, she might have become a great fashion photographer. It's a shame that all we have is her student work, but I think it shows more potential than what most student work reveals, and it's rare, I think, to find someone this young making work as interesting as she was. Photography doesn't seem to lend itself to prodigies, but she's about as close to it as possible.
     
  13. batwister

    batwister Member

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    Thanks SuzanneR.

    I agree that her work was mature for her age, though I'm still on the fence about it. Of course, her life was art for better or worse and it's not surprising that her work and ideas excelled that of her fellow students - who probably came from mostly normal middle class families. What is surprising is that growing up in a family concerned with traditional art, she levitated towards photography. I can't think of another photographer who received such a disciplined art life from such a young age.
     
  14. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    Well I know what things I love to push, and killing yourself isn't one of em. :smile: You obviously have more knowledge of what came before in similar genres of photography, so I can understand why you might feel she was late to the table. For me seeing her work was a pretty fresh experience, and I get a sense from it that she had a great excitement about photography. I don't think all of her pictures are masterpieces, but some of the better ones are definitely superb. To me.
     
  15. errorspending

    errorspending Member

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    Her work presents such great loneliness and sadness, and the photos of her merging with her surroundings make me think she was severely neglected as a child. The quote from her mother about how she (the mother) would hate anyone she lived with who did not invest the same time into art as her was so sad and revealing. Poor child never had a chance and obviously had great talent.
     
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  16. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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  17. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    That seems quite a leap.