Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Disquietude, Francesca Woodman

Self-portrait at 13 Boulder Colorado 1972, notice that her
left hand is holding a cable linked to the camera (Wikipedia)
It has been written and I agree, that the ghost of Francesca Woodman is there in every photograph. Most of her work is self portraiture in rundown buildings, ruins. The youthful body contrasts the broken building, but does not look out of place in such settings. Why?

from Space series Rhode Island 1977

Here the body becomes the wall. The body, between two windows, headless, the navel of a child. The feet darken into shadow, there is a dirtiness there. I love this photo sometimes. What does it say about her womanhood? Can the naked female body signify anything other than womanhood? Yes. Perhaps.

Last night I dreamed a dream that washed like a wave too close to reality. I carry it still into the white afternoon. The snow has fallen, the sun shines on the dust making a brightness one cannot comfortably look at for long. Out the window the shadow of trees fall on the shed, crosshatch of limbs.

Untitled Rome 1977-78
Here (above) there is something sorrowful, romantic. What does the cala lily mean to her? How odd that it is there behind the corner. The woman seems, not Woodman, at ease.

Space 2 Rhode Island 1975-76
I am drawn to these photos but also repelled by them. I feel more and more wordless the longer I look at them. Disquietude. A nude woman stuffed into a museum case, her breasts pushed against the glass, her hand, half a flower and the other outside, holding, hugging around. This is her take on womanhood. What a young girl feels. I could never reveal or expose my body in this way as a young girl but there was a desire to. As though there might be a way around the culturally imposed self-hatred of women. Perhaps the only cure is age, denied to Francesca 

Untitled New York 1979-80

Parts of the body. Severed. There is a sexuality here. I am reminded of freshman comp, learning about advertising schemes that used women's body parts I am reminded of high school and feeling the full power of my sexuality. Not understanding, terrified and yet oddly liberated. The body is broken down into parts. I am reminded of cleaning liquor bottles at a waitressing job. There was a conversation between me, the male bar tender, and the old man owner about sexism which ended with him--the owner of course--telling me to dust liquor bottles. 

Untitled Rhode Island 1975-78

"...A woman apparently dead at the lip of the ocean, reflected in the mirror of another woman whose own face is displaced by that very mirror." 

Untitled Stanwood Washington Summer 1979

Two women in a game of hide-and-seek.
Two women standing in prayer.
Two women blending into the forest.
Two women wearing old dresses.
It is almost 1980.

She could not have known
that she would leap
from a window
at the terribly
young age
of 22.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

On Love and Broken Hearts

Francesca Woodman

Love clouds memory, overpowers. I can’t seem to call her forth from the deeps. I see her, a half-silhouette in the waning light of August. She is older now. Not old, I mean, we are in our twenties. Grandma is still alive. The cabin, still someplace we want to go, a place longed for. I don’t think I’ll ever return to that cabin, the lake cabin our grandfather built. The place he and his four children our mothers and their two brothers, and his wife, spent their summers. Truth is that cabin is tainted in every way, but I can’t get into that here. What do I mean, love clouds? I am looking through the window into the windows of my back porch, through which I see trees that I can describe in my mind better than I could ever explain if I were really seeing them. It doesn’t matter what we are really seeing, it is just the emotion we long for. The trigger that shuts down the thinking mind, lets us live there in the currents of the underworld, the past brain, place of ancestry, of mythic imagination. I can never explain to you how much certain moving clouds, on windy days, in blue fielded skies, mean to me. But I can say, in the rivers of the soul such clouds give us glimpses of the Beyond, whatever that means to you. I can say, the color of the sky—blue, like the veins of the skin—tastes of salt water and sun, it smells like the sea when you were a child and you ran into the waves, dove with them until your eyes stung and your head burned from the sun and you were so tired and hungry that all you wanted was to sit in your mother’s warm lap eating mint chocolate ice cream, dreaming of the hour you’d catch the wave just so and it would pummel you towards shore.

The Beyond, to me, is many things, one being a place where time folds in on itself—shuts down—and we float free, soul and body free. Looking through the windows and trying to remember her, to recall her to mind, all I see is her walking in an oversized red jacket beside a tall thin man near a lake that stretches beyond the horizon. A lake that when you look at it, flows all the way to the sky. I want to see her with her son again. Remember that her love for him moved her through this world. I know she thinks she has lost him. She has, but no one can say what the future holds. And yes I am writing this here for you. I know I can’t reach you. But I can go on loving you as if everything in the world depended on it, knowing it will never do a bit of good. This is broken heartedness. You see. I know you think you’re the one with the broken self, but your broken self has broken the hearts of dozens of people who go on loving you because they can’t stop and they won’t and they never will. But you could, you really could, save those hearts if you were just willing to try and love yourself again.