For this week’s artist of the week we have Francesca Woodman, an artist that ended her life at the age of 22 in 1981. I bring this up first for two reasons: artists tend to become more recognized after their death rather than while they’re living, and more importantly, the most of Francesca’s work has a spiritual angle to them. That fact alone makes me wonder if her art’s style was a reflection of her desire to reach a spiritual place by means of taking her own life. Only Francesca would know the answer to that question, and she is not around to ask.
The piece of Francesca’s I would like to analyze is one from her house series in the mid 1970s. The common theme of these works appears to be centered on the them of ethereal images and other aberrations. What’s interesting about these pieces is not the necessarily the content, but rather the lack of technology at the time to produce the content. In the 1970s, portable cameras did not nearly have the settings of a modern digital device, and controlling shutter speed was something segregated to the world of high end camera photography. Shutter speed, however, is typically not adjusted in the longer direction, as that typically distorts and blurs moving images. The blur of the image, however, was exactly what Francesca needed to produce these pieces. It took both technical understanding of her equipment and a spark of imagination to even produce these images.
Another fascinating thing about these images, and something we take for granted today, is that Francesca would not have known if her pictures had successfully produced the effect she desired until after they were developed. The amount of forethought and setup for her art is rather impressive from a technical standpoint.