The museum recently acquired its first works by photographer Francesca Woodman (1958–1981). Two of the photographs, Space2 and My House, date from when she was an undergraduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) between 1975 and 1978. They were purchased through the generous support of Marina and Andrew E. Lewin, Class of 1981. The third, an untitled work from Eel Series, purchased with the generous support of the Elizabeth and David C. Lowenstein '67 Fund, dates to Woodman's time on the year-long RISD Rome Honors Program in Italy.
Woodman is known for creating haunting photographs of the female body, often her own, placed in seemingly compromised positions and locations within a quiet and unsettling landscape or architectural space. She possesses a sophisticated approach to composition, light, and engagement with themes of danger, entrapment, and exposure. Woodman's body is partially obscured in all three photographs, and it almost disappears completely behind the reflections of light on a plastic sheet in My House, rendering her as still as the draped clothes on the shelves and as much a part of the architecture as the window from which the light pours. In Space, she seems almost a willful prisoner in a museum case, on display yet pressing against the glass to escape. In the untitled work from Eel Series, the dead eel curled in a bowl—purchased most likely by Woodman during the Christmas holidays, when eel is a particularly savored dish in Rome—and the contours of her body are visually linked in a moment that is both sensual and disturbing.
Together, these works document the artistic process and struggles of a particularly gifted young artist, making Woodman's photographs that much more fascinating to those exploring their own coming of age as Dartmouth students. All three are editioned estate gelatin silver prints, and one or more will be featured in the summer/fall exhibition Shadowplay, co-curated by Dartmouth senior lecturers in studio art Brian Miller and Virginia Beahan.