In 1958, Francesca Woodman was born in Denver, Colorado to a family of artists and it was at the young age of thirteen when she first photographed herself and began her full absorption into the world of photography. Despite her premature suicide in 1981, at only twenty-two years old, Woodman was able to fulfill an impressive portfolio of photography that remains today as her lasting legacy. Growing up in both Italy and the United States, Woodman eventually attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where she graduated from in 1979. During her schooling she studied abroad for a year in the Rome Honors Program and it was in Rome where she had her first one-woman show at the bookshop-gallery Maladoror and came in contact with the Roman Transavanguardia. After finishing school, Woodman moved to New York and right before her untimely demise in January of 1981 she published 'Some Disordered Interior Geometries,' one of her many books that she made to display her photos. Shot in the 2 1/4 inch square format, the majority of Woodmans work consists of black-and-white nude self-portraits and once she was even ejected from the Museum of Natural History in New York for photographing herself nude among the animal exhibits. The utilization of her own body as a form of art places Woodman directly into the currents of the Feminist avant-garde that epitomized the Seventies and Eighties. Being an American woman working in the photographic realm of self-portraiture, Woodman has to undoubtedly draw comparisons to Cindy Sherman, the most prominent artist of the late twentieth century. However, I feel that Woodman's work is more about the self while, on the other hand, Sherman's self-portraiture is more often about the social norms that she was reacting against. Consequently, Woodman emerges as the isolated individual devoid of the fashions of the time. Even though Woodman's nude self-portraiture is clearly about the female form, I cannot help but feel that the rawness of the physical presentation is transcended by the mental aspects of the overall composition. Woodman's portraits are often described as ghostly apparitions and perhaps it is this allusion to the spirit that ultimately dematerializes the body and immerses her work into the realm of psychology. The melancholy facts of her biography that eventually led to her suicide cannot help but to draw questions of mental disorder as an undercurrent throughout Woodman's oeuvre. Above all, I feel that it is necessary to compare the apparent similarities of Woodman's photographs with the paintings of Francis Bacon to help understand the harrowing effects that both of their works conjure up. Both artists are solely concerned with portraying the human figure but in a way that dissolves the physical form in order to convey its concealed inner essence. Bacon and Woodman both place their isolated figures in barren interiors that work to suggest interior mental spaces. The figures are free to move but it feels as if their freedom is relegated to their cell. The lack of detailed props or clothes deny the viewer any sense of a specific time or place and refocus the eye back onto the main subject. As a result, the artwork does not seem to be solely confined to the present and in the case of Woodman her use of black-and-white photography acts as a relic of the past but, nonetheless, has an immediacy that brings her world into ours. Woodman's art, therefore, has a peculiar timeless aspect to it where the spirit of her work will always be able to express her vision for generations to come.

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Thomas Cummins art philosophy