Photographs by Francesca Woodman. Text by Chris Townsend.
Phaidon, London, 2006. 240 pp., 30 color and 230 b&w illustrations, 11½x9¾”.
For an artist who left us with a finite oeuvre more than two decades ago, the number of articles and exhibitions produced after her death concerning her work is astounding; as is the frequency with which publications on Woodman go out of print. She had an ephemeral yet prolific career-working for a mere ten years, only three of which were after she graduated from RISD-a career that was never realized while she was alive. This new and definitive monograph is powerful and personal and the only book on her work currently in print. It includes more than 200 images, starting with a self-portrait at thirteen years old, taken in 1972, and culminating with work from New Hampshire and New York taken in 1980 just before her suicide in January, 1981. Woodman’s work is distinctly that of a young artist, yet it contains a depth that allows for broad and nuanced critical analysis. An extensive and erudite text by Chris Townsend, titled “Scattered in Space and Time,” examines Woodman’s work through the lenses of American Gothic, Surrealism, feminism, post-Minimal photography and the self-portrait. Selections from the artist’s journals, edited by her father, show her working through ideas and developing as an artist. One entry, from an undated journal, reads, “I am interested in the way people relate to space. The best way to do this is to depict their interactions to the boundaries of these spaces. Started doing this with ghost pictures, people fading into a flat plane-ie becoming the wall under wallpaper or of an extension of the wall onto floor…Glass makes a nice definition of space because it delineates a form while revealing what is inside it is also a cold and somewhat harsh material.” Who is to say what her reaction would be to the scholarly buzz that her work has inspired? Over the past two decades the critical community has certainly viewed Woodman’s work as laudable and the continuing resurrection of her work is something for which many will be thankful. – Larissa Leclair
Originally published in the Photo-eye Booklist, Winter 2006.