Research Point: Cindy Sherman

MOMA acquired all sixty nine images in the Untitled Film stills 1977 – 1980 by Cindy Sherman. Fourteen of these images can be seen here. (1) which gives a good idea of what is contained in the entire series. Sherman was only 23 years old when she started to make this series. It is about the female stereotypes of this period in the US. Because of the power of publicity and the influence of the US, especially at that time, these stereotypes were typical throughout the developed world. I was a young woman in 1977 so I can totally empathise with these images. They are almost painful for me to look at even though I know Sherman was acting the parts. The images are, for me, totally convincing and painfully realistic.

Following the Untitled Film Still series, Sherman was  Invited by Artforum to design a portfolio to be reproduced in the magazine, Sherman set out to exploit the centerfold format. (2). With the help of costume and lighting Sherman creates this series of porn magazine stars, using herself again as model. The format is large and her ‘constructed’ image fills the frame resulting in images which make us uneasy to look at. It is as if we are taking a sneaky look at the porn magazines on the top shelf in the Newsagents.

Sherman’s more recent series Society Portraits,  dating from 2008 when the photographer was 55 years old, are about how the rich age or more correctly how they try not to show age. (3) Sherman again uses herself as model and with the aid of theatre makeup she creates these grotesque aging women. This is a theme which interests me greatly. I understand what Sherman is saying with these images but I am still  revolted by them. I love the lines which time paints on aging faces. I find them a lot more attractive than the clownish makeup which some aging women paint on their faces. But I guess this is the whole point of Sherman’s work.

What is significant about this body of work is that Sherman has been able to metamorphose into these various characters and to make them totally believable. Although we know that these are not real people and the situations are fabricated, we are still strongly influenced by what we are looking at. This is the power of good constructed work.

  1. MoMA.org | Interactives | Exhibitions | 1997 | Cindy Sherman | Untitled Film Still #14. 2016. MoMA.org | Interactives | Exhibitions | 1997 | Cindy Sherman | Untitled Film Still #14. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/1997/sherman/untitled14.html. [Accessed 22 May 2016].

    2. exhibit-E.com. 2016. Cindy Sherman – Skarstedt Gallery. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.skarstedt.com/exhibitions/2003-05-01_cindy-sherman/. [Accessed 22 May 2016].The Guardian. 2016.

    3. Cindy Sherman: Older and wizened | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2009/apr/22/cindy-sherman-photography-art-exhibition. [Accessed 22 May 2016].

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