Francesca Woodman – A Perfect Temptation

Photo exhibition Autobiografia/Autoritratto

Francesca Woodman, Daniela Monaci, Lucilla Catania, Elisa Montessori, Silvia Stucky

Museo H. C. Andersen, Via P. S. Mancini, 20 – Roma

until January, 20 – visited on January, 10


A body without head: she is bent on herself in a deserted land. In Self-Deceit 1, mirroring herself, she is carefully looking for her own identity, like an animal who doesn’t know to be the one in the mirror. In Self-Deceit Series, her body as a part of a ruined wall, even if she is only twenty. A dramatic and white mask between her open legs and the body without head: her troubled identity is behind the mask, in her sex and intimacy. In Self-portrait talking to Vince  she tries to speak and shout using another kind of language, maybe because human words are no longer sufficient to express herself. Inclined to androgyny and melancholy, Francesca Woodman seems to say that having a body means you are not pure anymore, as you wanted to be when, in your thoughts, you were only a soul. In the Eel Series the eel near her body reminds us the sensations of sex and that she is crossed by carnal temptation. For this reason they are – her and her body – both suffering for desire.  Having a body is painful because it will register all the inmost feelings in the flesh (except for cynics or dissociated). Pure souls don’t suffer. As a direct consequence, Francesca Woodman wants to be as pure as a perfect soul to stop her sorrow when portraits herself in New York, naked, proud and just in front of the viewers. We know that she has a formal identity (the certificate of birth hanged on the left, on the wall) but she watches us in her slightly asymmetric breast, with passing away eyes and long axillary hair, challenging us while screaming through an inner dialogue which could be something like: “This is me. I am not perfect. I don’t mirror myself anymore because I am tired of searching for myself. Now the mirror is behind me, I don’t need it. I am mirroring myself in your eyes. You, watching me, answer my question: have I or have I not the right to be here, even though I am not perfect?”. The photograph was taken between 1980 and 1981 and, as a letter written to the world, some days later, she threw herself out of a window in New York, satisfying the temptation of her soul. The biography says that she was depressed because of her work path and, moreover, after a broken relationship. So honest and brave not to cast her own shadows onto someone else, she didn’t bear the pain and the weight to be only human.




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