|House #3 by Francesca Woodman|
Yesterday I decided to work with photography, layering drawings and pictures together. I felt I was betraying my tactile-painter-self but I admit, it was enjoyable. Today I encountered the work of Francesca Woodman on-line. I’m assuming most of my artist friends are already acquainted with her work, her influence has clearly spread long and deep in the arts. It’s just like me to be oblivious to anything outside my own tiny sphere. I am totally enthralled with her work. It is hard in this age of visual overload to find work that grabs me so completely I can be riveted by an artist’s entire body of work and not just a few things that look good on Instagram.
What moved me the most was how she seemed to be defining femininity as as a thing vulnerable and soft but imbued with wily, mischievous strength and wrought with the same luminous decay that fuels nature. Delicate blossoms command the lives of bees for a brief moment then bruise and rot into the ground, a nurse log in the forest gives up its structure to feed new roots.
There is much debate as to whether Woodman was a feminist. I believe the feminism we see in her work is simply that she was a woman making the work she wanted to make. I don’t believe her work is about resisting the male gaze, it may give that impression at times but only because she was too busy making her art to be concerned with the issue at all. She works completely outside the idea of a male gaze and men who can’t fathom such independence assume she is merely resisting their gaze, classic.
Francesca was raised to be an artist, a whole person defined by her passion, she did not relinquish that.
For as remarkably tuned in to the beauty of decay as she seemed to be it is ironic that she cut her own life short in her youthful prime. I feel heartbroken we didn’t get to watch her work evolve, let it be another reminder that metal illness should be talked about and treated instead of shamed and hidden.