Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Art has to capacity to obsess and dominate individuals, especially creators, and it can lead to wonder but also tragedy, even madness for some. In the case of an entire family immersed in art all the waking hours, the stresses and competitiveness might be too difficult to handle. But outsiders seldom get to open a window on this world from the inside, getting perspective that is personal and intimate, as is the case in the beautiful documentary The Woodmans (2011), featuring the remarkable photography of Francesca Woodman, the interesting ceramics of her mother Betty, the painting of her father George, and mixed media work of her brother Charlie. Unfortunately the apparently fragile and unfulfilled Francesca could not handle some aspect of her world and chose to end her life. In this film her parents prominently try to tell their daughter's story. I really liked a lot of her work, though often not what others might have enjoyed the most; she was daring, an exhibitionist, a provocateur. Her peers and teachers recognized her talent, but like her father, recognition on a broader, commercial, museum scale lagged; Betty, stern and demanding, seemed to get much more applause. There is a lot to absorb here: the confusion and yearning of an artistic young woman, the loss experienced by parents, the value of art, the beauty of individual works, the preservation of legacy. There were a few times I thought that there could have been a little critical assessment, but overall I really enjoyed the movie (and the haunting score).

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