Thursday, 20 February 2014

A missed appointment with Francesca Woodman

I received her invitation to an exhibition in Rome 20 years after she was dead! 

Francesca Woodman was one of the preeminent artists and photogs. of her generation. She first shined in Rome at the end of the 1970s, but was later to have recognition in the US, after her suicidein NY , still in her early twenties.

She brought Photography at a cross between Surrealism, Body Art and Feminism, but was generally interpreted according to the latter. Only later critics understood her importance as a contemporary artist in the Conceptual/Body Art arena. She was also dubbed the Rimbaud of photography for her blazing imaginative vision.

You can imagine my  consternation when I discovered that she had send me a personal invitation with a real print of hers stuck on it, and that I had never received it! 

In fact the owner of the gallery had stolen all the invitations, and they resurfaced at an exhibition in Rome after 20 yrs. Here it is: a friend saw it and brought me a photostat. I publish it here as a proof.

I should really sue the gallery owner, but thanks to this psychological shock I have made an even stronger bond with Francesca. In my mind she has established the strongest rapport between photo and poetry. Therefore I propose to make her  into the 'déesse tutélaire of this blog.

Woodman had had a classical education, including one year in Florence, and was educated  at the Rhode Island School of Art. One of the references I like to have from her is how to set the human body in a cube-like empty room, an act of visual cruelty, that she might have learned from Francis Bacon. Curves against angles.

I don't do staged pictures, however I am sensitive as she was to the unheimlich, the unfamiliar, and the passage to the other side of the mirror. It is probably a familiarity with things of the Spirit non-Western people would call it.

The exhibition of her naked body, which people identified with feminism, I see more in terms of Body Art and the liberated sexualization of the 1970. I was myself active in conceptual theatre at the time, and nudity was an unremarkable feature of the times. She did refine it to the quality of statuary, giving to photography the timeless dimension it deserves.

More modestly I am attracted to the female body in the street and by 'les jeunes filles en fleurs', Sometimes people reproach it to me as voyeurism, but I belong to the same early period of woman liberation of Francesca Woodman, and body is no shame. Moreover they fit in the panorama of Rome as the other actors of the 'comédie humaine'.

In memoriam, Francesca. Long live your body as it persists in your photography!

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