I found this Francesca Woodman catalog, from the 2011/12 exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art (and the 2012 exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Muesum) in a Half Price Books some months ago, and snatched it up immediately.


If you’re unfamiliar with Woodman, maybe have a quick look at Wikipedia or something. She was, in some sense, a sort of premonition of Selfie Culture and the Instagram Influencer, but without all the product placement. In another sense, she comes as a sort of descendant to Cindy Sherman and other self portrait practitioners, but without so many of the production values (makeup, wardrobe, etc.).

Woodman is probably most well known for her self portraiture: often nude, regularly blurry, ghostly, haunting; exploring isolation and the pressures Woodman (and many women) felt in her family and social system. She also took some portraits, still lifes, landscapes, but the vast majority of her oeuvre is in firmly in the tradition of Self Portraiture. She also worked with alternative processes, printing techniques, and exhibition formats.

Her popularity waxes and wanes some, but her influence is clear in many of the prurient backheadwaters of Instagram—see, for example Shelbie Diamond, and I’m sure there are numerous others—though I find more mystery and intrigue, and less obvious prurience, in Woodman’s work.

Woodman committed suicide in 1981 at the age of twenty-two, leaving behind an incredible body of work. Now, nearly 40 years later, her work continues to impress and fascinate. Her early work in old Rhode Island homes, ghostly, disappearing into peeling wallpaper and worn floorboards, clothes pinned, posing in curio cabinets with taxidermied wildlife; her later work in forests in New Hampshire, swinging from doorframes in Italy, playing with mirrors and sheets of glass, photographs playing off of torn edges of the paper; late period work in New York, more straight artistic works, linking chains of photographs together, interacting with architectural elements. All in all, a solid, fairly unified body of work, and worth deeper study.


I didn’t make time to read the essays at the end, from Corey Keller, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Jennifer Blessing, and shame on me, as I’m sure they’d give me more to say about Woodman, her life, and her art. Alas. I’m feeling lazy and somewhat uninspired (as is evidenced by the recent lack of content here: apologies). God willing, I’ll pull myself out of it soon.

I found this copy of Franchesca Woodman, as mentioned, used in a Half Price Books for $35, which seems like a good deal, since they start at $90 on Amazon. This copy is a little beat up and missing its dust jacket, but I still think I got a decent deal on it, so score.

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