The family spent summers in Italy, where Woodman explored museums and became engrossed by relics in the natural history museum and paintings of women in formal clothing. She filled sketchbooks with drawings and started keeping a journal. At boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts, Woodman took photography classes, where she began to explore ideas that appear in her later work. In one image produced during her school days, Woodman tramped through a local forest, capturing herself crawling nude through the trees.
By the time she enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1975, Woodman was already a sophisticated artist with a remarkably mature and focused approach to her work. One classmate recalls in the documentary that the precocious Woodman exuded a “rock star quality.”
Her work from this period questions broader concepts of the self, gender, body image, corporality, and identity. Asked why she photographed herself so obsessively, Woodman said: “It’s a matter of convenience—I am always available.”
Yet a striking aspect of her work is that her nakedness is either explicit or, by contrast, attempts to hide her body. In From Space2, Providence, Rhode Island (1976), the artist stands nude before a wall with crumbling paint, holding one torn strip of wallpaper before her face and breasts, another over her genitals. Even when other people feature in Woodman’s photographs, they function as stand-ins for the artist. In the 1976 photograph About Being My Model, Providence, Rhode Island, three nude female subjects are portrayed with their faces obscured by headshots of Woodman, leaving the viewer wondering if the artist is, in fact, present in the image.