Student Review: Francesca Woodman at SFMOMA

Francesca Woodman: House #3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

PH51 Beginning Photography
By Brittany Ashlock

In honor of a gifted American photographer and artist, the prestige San Francisco Museum of Modern Art celebrates the life of Francesca Woodman, a daughter born from artists, a young photographer beyond her years, and a famous tragedy. Known for her self-portraits, yet recognized as the Woodman artist who committed suicide at the young age of twenty-two. Francesca Woodman has left the world in awe for some time. Thirteen years later, aspiring artists and students alike ponder at the images she composed.

Just days after the opening of the Francesca Woodman exhibit at the SFMOMA, my class of aspiring photographers and myself were honored to receive an invited tour from the Associate Curator of Photography, Corey Keller. Excited like an eight year old for a fieldtrip, I could not wait to visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A building that is structurally art in itself, I walked in as I am sure everyone does, simply amazed. If you have never been to SFMOMA before, they do not ticket you at the door like other museums but just before you ding the elevator button, like you are entering another realm once the elevator door opens. As we crammed ourselves into the elevator, and the realm doors reopened we were greeted by Keller herself.

A proud spokeswoman of Francesca’s work, Keller brought us in into the world of the Woodman’s. Answering all of our obvious and curious questions. Though many of her images were creative, her death reflected back in her images. I, myself could not help but wonder if some of her images were metaphor’s for depression, a reflection of drug use or shadows to her suicide. Though I found the way she used herself for convenience creative yet realistic. The image I found most beautiful was the larger than life self-portrait of Francesca in a cotton dress, the vintage exposure printed on ripped paper stained with mounting glue was stunning. The image didn’t expose her face but left the viewer curious, as many are to Francesca. Overall the collections of work displayed at SFMOMA were beautiful, reflective of the mysterious young woman.

The invitation by Corey Keller couldn’t have come at a better time, our class was preparing for our own portrait shoot, of others as well as our own self-portrait.  The beautiful way Francesca shot herself nude with such simplicity and without eroticism ended up inspiring my own self-portrait.

After seeing the exhibit and learning that most of the images Francesca composed were in her early years of college, I couldn’t help but ponder the strong connection. Arguably her talents exceed many of ours but being that we are young students, or just simply students put us almost eye to eye with her once reality.

Photographers interested in vintage photography or self-portraits should really take the time to see the Francesca Woodman collection on display from November 5 to February 20, 2012 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art- 151 Howard St. San Francisco, CA.

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