francesca woodman’s room

artists August 6, 2016

Francesca Woodman

The room I entered was a dream of this room.

Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.

The oval portrait

of a dog was me at an early age.

Something shimmers, something is hushed up.

except Sunday, when a small quail was induced

to be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?

You are not even here.

-John Ashbery, “This Room”

She is everything at once. She is the tree and the fireplace, the floor and the mirror. She takes surfaces, papers and fragments of walls and hides behind them, layering the outmost limit of the photograph atop her, making it less an appearance and more an act of veiling. In the photograph, a body is on equal footing with all that surrounds it. Everything is brought to the surface. Seeing so many of Francesca Woodman’s ghostly traces lined up in gallery after gallery at the retrospective of the young artist’s abortive career recently opened at SFMOMA, one encounters her wherever one turns. Everything has become a self-portrait. Even those few photographs that attend to a solitary door, or a stand of trees, or the corner in the time-scratched rooms she called her studio, her home. These, too, are images of her. One keeps looking for the cusp of a shoulder, wisp of a hair, peeking out from the door that stands just ajar. This is how the doomed narcissist must have felt, surrounded by objects that only reflect or represent her body. Everything is my language and everything speaks to me. You are not even here.