The Delicacy Of Francesca Woodman

All photos by Francesca Woodman.

AR00350_9.jpgFrancesca Stern Woodman (1958-1981) haunts me. Her monochrome work is poetic and beautiful, and deeply elusive. Bodies blur into the background (possibly a statement of her own sense of anonymity?) as womanly figures blur into childhood poses. There’s hide and seek; a foetal curl, a self-conscious hand placed just so. It at once protects the sitter, and draws the viewer in.

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Symbolism is key here: Alice band shoes, a single flower, a mirror, a shadow tapering out from a nude form- all provide clues to Woodman’s troubled psyche, inextricably linked to her melancholic and gorgeous photography, with poses from either models or Woodman herself.

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I hear Sylvia Plath and the violence of her lyricism, I see Munch and his Puberty painting, those incredible spiders by Louise Bourgeois, which fill entire rooms full of menace. She occupies a particular feminine space, full of desire and awkward questions, rage and fire.

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Identity is never straightforward, so, too with Woodman. It’s the  dreamlike states , the spaces in-between, the comma, the pause where her work lies.

Josh Armstrong created a ballet based on her work, a beautiful piece called These Delicate Things . Maria Mochnacz’s photography for PJ Harvey, particularly the first two albums, is deeply influenced by Woodman’s ouevre, with its emphasis on shadowy forms.

Years later, she still inspires and captivates a legion of artists, choreographers and film makers. If she had only survived to see this for herself.

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