I’ve come across the name of today’s photographer in a book about the art market I’m currently reading – ‘the 12 million dollar stuffed shark; The curious economics of Contemporary art and Auction houses (Don Thompson, 2008 – courtesy of the local library) and when I attended an art funding workshop in Coventry yesterday I met Maria Rankin, she suggested I should have a look at Sherman’s work. Suggestion taken, thanks!
Cindy Sherman was born on January 19, 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey as the youngest of five children. Her family moved to the township of Huntington, Long Island, shortly after her birth. Sherman became interested in the visual arts at Buffalo State College, where she began painting. Frustrated with what she saw as the medium’s limitations, she abandoned the form and took up photography. “[T]here was nothing more to say [through painting],” she later recalled. “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 spent the rest of her college career focused on photography. Though Sherman had failed a required photography class as a freshman, she repeated the course with Barbara Jo Revelle, whom she credits with introducing her to conceptual art and other contemporary forms.While in college she met Robert Longo who encouraged her to record her process of dolling up for parties, and together with Charles Clough, created Hallwalls, an independent artists’ space where she and fellow artists exhibited.
Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. Even though the images are of her self, they are explicitly not self-portraits. For a work of art to be considered a portrait, the artist must have intent to portray a specific, actual person. This can be communicated through such techniques as naming a specific person in the title of the work or creating an image in which the physical likeness leads to an emotional individuality unique to a specific person. While these criteria are not the only ways of connoting a portrait, they are just two examples of how Sherman carefully communicates to the viewer that these works are not meant to depict Cindy Sherman the person. By titling each of the photographs “Untitled”, as well as numbering them, Sherman depersonalizes the images.
There are also very few clues as to Sherman’s personality in the photographs – each one is so unique and ambiguous that the viewer is left with more confusion than clarity over Sherman’s true nature. She appeared as a B-movie, foreign film and film noir style actresses and as clowns. Although Sherman does not consider her work feminist, many of her photo-series call attention to the stereotyping of women in films, television and magazines, especially the Untitled Film Stills series. In addition to her film stills, Sherman has appropriated a number of other visual forms— the centerfold, fashion photographs, historical portrait, and soft-core sex image.
She photographed herself and other, went on a tour of discovery to find beauty in the grotesque and revolting using mould and vomit, doll parts, prosthetic body parts, shocked the world with colourful images using highly sexual poses and now returned to photographing herself once again.
In 1995, Sherman was the recipient of one of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowships, popularly known as the “Genius Awards.” She inspired several songs, in which the texts relate to her creativity and ability to create multiple façades to her persona.
Her early works seem to consist exclusively out of Black and White images, sometimes grainy in 8×10 or 35 mm format, later works are also in colour, ranging from medium to large format images.
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