A visit to the San Francisco MOMA …
I like to go to museums by myself, midweek, so I can linger and backtrack, impossible when galleries are full.
I was only halfway through the first gallery of the Francesca Woodman retrospective when I took out my notebook. A few sketches later, I put it away – better to just settle in.
What began with photographs and film from her student years at Rhode Island School of Design ended 180 images later in 1981, the year she committed suicide. She was 22.
There’s plenty to read on the internet about Francesca Woodman and the tragedy of her short life. But what struck me was her great sense of design: value, line, form, contrast – she used them expertly, even at 17. This wasn’t student work.
She planned, explored, pushed convention, fearless. Such an inspiration!
Back in the Studio …
I decided to explore a few themes that run through her work and mine – especially the figure in motion. I started sketching while I thought about palette: to pay homage to her black and white photography, I wouldn’t use
I painted smaller studies before embarking on large canvases, and tried limited palettes (split complementaries, for the artists here). Some I liked; some not so much. Some compositions (above right) recalled Francesca’s; others were totally invented (below left).
Now the figure was alive, moving! I distorted the planes: a figure reaches into a mirrored reflection; a scarf flows from indoors to out, and back again through the window.
I have one more study to do. I don’t know exactly what I’ll take to the larger paintings. What I do know is that Francesca is still inside me, and out on the canvas, too, always aware of the lens.