At the time of my discovery of Woodman’s work the pretty, decrepit spaces and old fashioned dresses were the visual hook upon which to enter the pictures. I was taken by the idea of representing spaces, particularly spaces that cannot be seen; the “spaces” of our minds. She seemed to transform before the camera, disappearing and reappearing sometimes in the same frame. Once I accessed the images, I was struck by a suite of them in particular, one grouping on a contact sheet that has now been published and shown in several books and exhibitions.
The images are of Woodman herself, long exposures of her moving through the frame. On the contact sheet you can see her drawn lines explaining the planes through which her body is moving. This visual representation of geometry was a breakthrough for me. I had previously struggled with the subject, making the lowest grade of my high school career; I just did not understand how to make successful geometric proofs. (Algebra was easier, balancing equations was easy for me to grasp.) But here it was, four years after my miserable geometry class, lined out for me: geometric proofs were about proving SPACE! Real space. My favorite thing about art is when it changes my mind. It is not always a change from one side of a subject to another, sometimes the change is in my perception of the world. When I see Woodman’s work today, I still feel the magnitude of a changed perspective.
Michelle Ott spent four summer seasons in Antarctica shooting large and medium format film. She’s currently working on a series of drawings of recycling trucks. In September, Ott will enter the MFA photography program at UC Berkeley. (Photo: Ott in Antarctica.)