From Grotesque to Glamorous, the Photography of Cindy Sherman

From Grotesque to Glamorous, the Photography of Cindy Sherman

From grotesque to glamorous, artist Cindy Sherman has explored the identity structures of our social world, revealing through photography – usually of her self -our own desires and vulnerability, as well as ideas about beauty and gender.

“I never see myself; they aren’t self-portraits. Sometimes I disappear,” Sherman said of her work to the New York Times in 1990.

Sherman, who lives and works in New York, has been the subject of major global exhibitions for a range of photographic projects that employs of imagery of herself in different costumes, make-up and prosthetics.

Born on January 19, 1954 in Glen Ridge, N.J., Cindy Sherman grew up in the township of Huntington on Long Island in New York. She first showed interest in the visual arts at Buffalo State College where she began painting, but soon abandoned the form when she grew frustrated with its limitations.

“I was meticulously copying other art and then I realized I could just use a camera and put my time into an idea instead,” she said of her switch.

She transitioned to photography and produced one of the key series of her early career. For “Untitled Film Stills, 1977–1980,” she shot a series of 69 black-and-white portraits of herself posed as alternative identities, staged to approximate film noir movie stills of the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s. The work has been considered feminist in the way that it exemplifies the stereotypes women have often played in cinema. Sherman has said that the traces of these iconic-looking characters came from dressing up in her mother’s clothing at a very early age. These mini performances in front of the camera helped her discover the use of her own body as a medium in pictures. “Untitled Film Stills” earned her international attention.

While her physical presence is displayed prominently in her work, Sherman utilizes photography as the conduit to convey her artistic message. She has posed as magazine centerfolds, classical paintings, clowns, and even as a corpse.

Sherman’s work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague; Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon; Musée d’art Contemporain de Bordeaux; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1997-2000); the Serpentine Gallery in London; the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (2003); and the Jeu de Paume, Paris (2006). Her “Untitled Film Series” is housed in entirety at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where she’ll be honored with a retrospective in 2012.

by Craig Stephens