first act is final curtain


It’s impossible to know how Francesca Woodman’s photographs would strike us if she hadn’t thrown herself out of a window at 22. Her suicide makes every image feel portentous. Each is a memento mori, a harbinger of imminent death. She specialised in self-portraits and the suite of choreographed scenes she shot with a timer or a remote trigger seems in retrospect a record of her unravelling. We rarely see her face. She bleeds into the background in very long exposures and disappears into crumbling walls. Her limbs vanish behind wallpaper and blur into architecture. Her flesh is barely solid, melting into mist and yielding to the rigid surface of a windowpane. The new exhibition of her work at New York’s Guggenheim Museum prompts a series of unanswerable questions. Would Woodman’s fierce self-scrutiny have ebbed with maturity or would it have inflected her entire career? Did the monomaniacal intensity of her work propel her towards death?

more from Ariella Budick at the FT here.