Friday, August 31, 2012

The Woodmans

I'm a sucker for a good documentary. One night over the summer I was perusing the documentaries available on Netflix Instant when I came across one particularly intriguing PBS doc called "The Woodmans." Though this is obviously non-fiction, I still thought it was quite interesting and wanted to share.

Directed by C. Scott Willis, "The Woodmans" tells the inspiring but tragic story of Francesca Woodman, the daughter of well-known artists George and Betty Woodman. Francesca developed her own artistic talent at an early age through photography and experimental video. She is known for her style of blurry, black and white photographs, often nude self-portraits. Her photographs have a beautiful but gritty and haunting quality to them and look like what one would see in a contemporary high fashion magazine spread. One of her childhood friends even described her style as "something you would see in an Urban Outfitters catalog today." However, despite her talent, photography did not have the same popularity in the '70s as it does today. Throughout her short career, Francesca's struggled with depression and the fact that she did not receive the artistic recognition she thought she deserved. At age 22, Francesca killed herself. More than 30 years later, the art community is still fascinated by her work and story.

The most interesting part of this documentary for me was not just Francesca's own story, but that of her father, mother, and brother, all insanely dedicated artists who admit they feel somewhat overshadowed by Francesca's legacy as they have always struggled for their own personal artistic recognition. The AV Club hits the nail on the head in their review of the film, highlighting the strange family dynamic of The Woodmans when they say that during the film Francesca's father George "frankly asserts that one of the reasons he loved his daughter was that she was the kind of passionate person who would try something as drastic as suicide." This sentiment alone speaks to how much the entire family values and dedicates themselves to art. This film was definitely worth the watch- it not only opened my eyes to Francesca Woodman's art, but also made me question what it means to be a true artist. How far should one go for the sake of art? Is there room for family/significant others in the context of the art world? To what extent, if any, do you have to be "tortured" to be a great artist?

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