Francesca Woodman profiled in The Guardian

Searching for the real Francesca Woodman. By Rachel Cooke.

 

In 1981, at just 22, the sublimely talented Francesca Woodman killed herself, leaving behind evocative photographs that influenced a generation of artists. On the eve of an exhibition, Rachel Cooke talks to her parents and friends about the young woman who is fast becoming a myth

 

Betty Woodman remembers with perfect clarity the day her daughter Francesca took the photograph. It was in La Specola, Florence’s museum of natural history. “Francesca was fascinated by La Specola,” she says. “She wanted to work there, but it wasn’t going to be straightforward. So she made friends with the guard and he let her in after hours. He got very nervous about it – I think he was more interested in her than in photography – so she asked me to go with her. I had to sit in a room outside, but if she squawked or sounded like she needed help, I was to go right in.” Francesca’s father, George Woodman, interrupts: “What she means is, if the guard pinched her bottom, Betty would be there.”

 

Consider the image in question (facing page, top left) and you pick up a powerful sense of this backstory: it has a wonderfully secretive quality. What happens in a museum when all the visitors go home? In this one, a kind of ghost appears in the form of Woodman, who can be glimpsed behind a large vitrine in which sits the huge and alarmingly toothy skull of some unidentifiable animal. “Francesca couldn’t make her mind up,” says Betty. “First, she wanted to be naked. Then she thought she’d wear a leotard.” Not that I should get the wrong idea. “This wasn’t a performance. She was concentrating on the picture. That was why she didn’t want people around. She didn’t want any distractions.”...

 

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The Guardian Posted 31 August 2014

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