Out of the Woods

I don’t know too many dudes who like Francesca Woodman. Myself included. It’s a chick thing. (I know, I know, Naaay-land, check your gender norms).


Francesca Woodman
Self-Deceit, 1978

Forget Nan’s “diary”, Woodman’s photographs are the torn out pages of a young woman’s tragic and beautiful life—in all its romanticism and angst. Nan’s “diary” is the one that gets passed around at school and is filled with the who’s fucking who and the who’s who—everyone wants to see it and everyone wants to be in it. Except Francesca. She’s the mysterious one. Her diary stays tucked.

And I guess that’s what’s so uncomfortable for dudes to look at—an exposed female. While most women tend to identify with the practically Plathian confessions of femininity in Woodman’s photographs.


Francesca Woodman
Blue Print for a Temple, 1980

Last winter I encountered a Francesca of a different color (pun intended).

When I get to the Met I must first climb the great staircase, make a left and head straight up the ramp to the Contemporary Photography section. Right turn and there it was.

What was it? A cyanotype? A blueprint? A 15-foot high towering collage of antiquity. Flesh replacing stone, four caryatids support a cornice cobbled from floor tiles. It was rad. And it was by Francesca Woodman.

I never saw much of anything in Woodman’s images, perhaps because they weren’t for me or perhaps because of my own ignorance I was unable to see. But in “Blue Print for a Temple,” I saw empowerment and strength. Where the majority of her images seemed to take place in ruins, this was Woodman rebuilding. There’s a lot of hope here, but knowing Woodman’s tragic end, is it false?


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