Francesca Woodman, ‘Untitled (MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire)’, 1980, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
Francesca Woodman’s photographs have been studied and celebrated for their critical dialogue with the history of art, examination of the body in relation to the space occupied and the complexities of self-portraiture. While her life and career were short, her distinct body of work reveals her quick and impressive evolution as a photographer with varying influences from Surrealism to Conceptualism and Post-minimalism.

In the series of photographs taken in New Hampshire in 1980 from which the current lot is a part, Woodman photographs herself in a towering forest of trees, her wrists and forearms wrapped in bark to mimic her surroundings. Her body figuratively becomes one with the world around her. While photographing outdoors was not novel for Woodman- images taken in her early teens show her interest in exploring the relationship between her body and nature- much of her work is characterized by interior self-portraits. In these photographs, Woodman positions herself at the center of the frame; her flesh grounding the images and serving as the canvas on which her narratives unfold.

But here, in contrast, we see Woodman visually and metaphorically receding into the periphery, her body pulled to the lower half of the frame, nearly vanishing among her natural surroundings. In her introductory essay to the Guggenheim exhibition catalogue for Francesca Woodman, Corey Keller remarks “history is by necessity written backward; its narrative takes shape with an ending already firmly in place.” Indeed, it is with a keen awareness of Woodman’s untimely death just one year after this photograph was taken, that the image takes on even greater importance, a visual precursor to the transition that she would choose for herself in just a short time.

A variant of this image, as well as a contact sheet print with this image, were both included in the Guggenheim retrospective in 2012.
Courtesy of Phillips

Phaidon, Francesca Woodman, p. 218
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Francesca Woodman, p. 108 and cat. 127
Scalo, Francesca Woodman Photography, p. 38, variant
University Penn Press, Francesa Woodman Photographic Work, No. 12, variant

Acquired from Jo Tartt, Washington D.C., to the present Private Collection, New York

About Francesca Woodman

At age thirteen, photographer Francesca Woodman took her first self-portrait. From then on, until her untimely death in 1981 at age 22, she produced over 800 images. The photographs, recognized for their unique vision and range of innovative techniques, have been the subject of extensive critical study. Situated alongside 1970s contemporaries such as Ana Mendieta and Hannah Wilke, Woodman’s images, self-portraits and explorations of the female body, foreshadow the work of such artists as Cindy Sherman, Sarah Lucas, Nan Goldin, and Karen Finley.

American, 1958-1981, Denver, Colorado, based in New York, New York