Art, Events January 19, 2011 By Sarah Coleman

Woodmans The Woodmans
Photographer Diane Arbus once said that a photograph is “a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.” Those words resonate powerfully in the work of Francesca Woodman, whose photographs from the 1970s and 80s are simultaneously mysterious, frank, playful, surreal, delicate and raw.
     The daughter of two successful and accomplished artists, Woodman reached artistic maturity at an extremely young age. At thirteen, she was already making striking self-portraits; by the time she was seventeen, she was shooting haunting, intense images that were uniquely hers. Abandoned houses were her favorite place to work, but she also shot in forests and on beaches, where she placed female figures (often herself) communing with the environment in original, provocative ways. Sometimes, a surreal element creeps in: masks and mirrors hide faces, bodies are obscured by birch bark and peeling wallpaper. Woodman’s frank sexuality and daring enhances her perfectly-balanced compositions. Each image becomes its own little mystery.
     Unfortunately, Woodman’s early work turned out to be her only work. In 1981, aged twenty-two and suffering from depression, she jumped to her death from a window in Greenwich Village. Like Diane Arbus, who also committed suicide, Woodman has become something of a mythic figure: the tortured girl genius whose talent couldn’t save her.

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