The Work of Cindy Sherman

Topics: Cindy Sherman, Photography, Women photographers Pages: 8 (2881 words) Published: May 1, 2005
No other artist has ever made as extended or complex career of presenting herself to the camera as has Cindy Sherman. Yet, while all of her photographs are taken of Cindy Sherman, it is impossible to class call her works self-portraits. She has transformed and staged herself into as unnamed actresses in undefined B movies, make-believe television characters, pretend porn stars, undifferentiated young women in ambivalent emotional states, fashion mannequins, monsters form fairly tales and those which she has created, bodies with deformities, and numbers of grotesqueries. Her work as been praised and embraced by both feminist political groups and apolitical mainstream art. Essentially, Sherman's photography is part of the culture and investigation of sexual and racial identity within the visual arts since the 1970's. It has been said that, "The bulk of her work…has been constructed as a theater of femininity as it is formed and informed by mass culture…(her) pictures insist on the aporia of feminine identity tout court, represented in her pictures as a potentially limitless range of masquerades, roles, projections" (Sobieszek 229).

Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Cindy Sherman grew up in suburban Huntington Beach on Long Island, the youngest of five children and had a regular American childhood. She was very self-involved, found of costumes, and given to spending hours at the mirror, playing with makeup (Schjeldahl 7). Cindy Sherman attended the state University College at Buffalo, New York, where she first started to create art in the medium of painting. During her college years, she painted self-portraits and realistic copies of images that she saw in photographs and magazines. Yet, she became less, and less interested in painting and became increasingly interested in conceptual, minimal, performance, body art, and film alternatives (Sherman 5). Sherman's very first introductory photography class in college was a complete failure for she had difficulties with the technological aspects of making a print. After her disastrous first attempt in photography, Sherman discovered Contemporary Art, which had a profound and lasting effect on the rest of her artistic career (Thames and Hudson 1). Sherman's first assignment in her photography class was to photograph something which gave her a problem, thus, Sherman chose to photograph her self naked. While this was difficult, she learned that having an idea was the most important factor in creating her art, not so much the technique that she used. While she was talented at copying with pencils and paints, this artistic method would not allow Sherman to express herself personally. But with a camera, Sherman could use her body as a tool (Sills 64). The young artist became fascinated by the way any image at all, simply being presented, activates a mysterious charge-neither subjective nor objective, but of both (Schjeldahl 7). In college, Sherman became active in the local avant-garde scene, the liveliest of two decades, and especially in Hallwalls, an artist-run alternative exhibition space (Heller 223). In 1975, while still attending college, Cindy Sherman created her first series of five photographs entitled, Untitled A-E. Within these first photographs, Sherman attempts to alter her face with makeup and hats, attempting to take on different personas, such as a little girl in Untitled D, and a clown in Untitled A (Thames and Hudson 2). This first series is Sherman's first attempt of documenting transformation. The Curator Linda Cathcart, saw the pictures at Hallwalls and put them at the Albright Knox Art Gallery (Heller 225). Because Sherman had such vivid imagination and became fascinated with self-transformation, Sherman often bought vintage clothes and accessories from thrift stores, which helped her to form and create different characters. "So it just grew and grew until I was buying and collecting more and more of these things, and suddenly the characters came...
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