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Artists Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman Photo

Cindy Sherman

American Photographer

Movements and Styles: The Pictures Generation, Conceptual Art, Feminist Art, Postmodernism

Born: January 19, 1954 - Glen Ridge, New Jersey

Cindy Sherman Timeline

Quotes

"I didn't want to make 'high' art, I had no interest in using paint, I wanted to find something that anyone could relate to without knowing about contemporary art. I wasn't thinking in terms of precious prints or archival quality; I didn't want the work to seem like a commodity."
Cindy Sherman
"The work is what it is and hopefully it's seen as feminist work, or feminist-advised work, but I'm not going to go around espousing theoretical bullshit about feminist stuff."
Cindy Sherman
"We’re all products of what we want to project to the world. Even people who don’t spend any time, or think they don’t, on preparing themselves for the world out there - I think that ultimately they have for their whole lives groomed themselves to be a certain way, to present a face to the world."
Cindy Sherman
"I feel I’m anonymous in my work. When I look at the pictures, I never see myself; they aren’t self-portraits. Sometimes I disappear."
Cindy Sherman
"Everyone thinks these are self-portraits but they aren’t meant to be. I just use myself as a model because I know I can push myself to extremes, make each shot as ugly or goofy or silly as possible."
Cindy Sherman
"I am always surprised at all the things people read into my photos, but it also amuse me. That may be because I have nothing specific in mind when I’m working. My intentions are neither feminist nor political. I try to put double or multiple meanings into my photos, which might give rise to a greater variety of interpretations."
Cindy Sherman
"I didn’t think of what I was doing as political. To me it was a way to make the best out of what I liked to do privately, which was to dress up."
Cindy Sherman
"The way I see it, as soon as I make a piece I’ve lost control of it."
Cindy Sherman
"One reason I was interested in photography was to get away from the preciousness of the art object."
Cindy Sherman

"The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told."

Synopsis

Cindy Sherman is a contemporary master of socially critical photography. She is a key figure of the "Pictures Generation," a loose circle of American artists who came to artistic maturity and critical recognition during the early 1980s, a period notable for the rapid and widespread proliferation of mass media imagery. At first painting in a super-realist style in art school during the aftermath of American Feminism, Sherman turned to photography toward the end of the 1970s in order to explore a wide range of common female social roles, or personas. Sherman sought to call into question the seductive and often oppressive influence of mass-media over our individual and collective identities. Turning the camera on herself in a game of extended role playing of fantasy Hollywood, fashion, mass advertising, and "girl-next-door" roles and poses, Sherman ultimately called her audience's attention to the powerful machinery and make-up that lay behind the countless images circulating in an incessantly public, "plugged in" culture. Sexual desire and domination, the fashioning of self identity as mass deception, these are among the unsettling subjects lying behind Sherman's extensive series of self-portraiture in various guises. Sherman's work is central in the era of intense consumerism and image proliferation at the close of the 20th century.

Key Ideas

Recalling a long tradition of self-portraiture and theatrical role-playing in art, Sherman utilizes the camera and the various tools of the everyday cinema, such as makeup, costumes, and stage scenery, to recreate common illusions, or iconic "snapshots," that signify various concepts of public celebrity, self confidence, sexual adventure, entertainment, and other socially sanctioned, existential conditions. As though they constituted only a first premise, however, these images promptly begin to unravel in various ways that suggest how self identity is often an unstable compromise between social dictates and personal intention.
Sherman's photographic portraiture is both intensely grounded in the present while it extends long traditions in art that force the audience to reconsider common stereotypes and cultural assumptions, among the latter political satire, caricature, the graphic novel, pulp fiction, stand-up comedy (some of her characters are indeed uncomfortably "funny"), and other socially critical disciplines.
Sherman's many variations on the methods of self-portraiture share a single, notable feature: in the vast majority of her portraits she directly confronts the viewer's gaze, no less in the case of posed sex dolls, as though to suggest that an underlying penchant for deception is perhaps the only "value" that truly unites us.
Long assumed to be a medium that "mirrors" reality with precision, photography in Sherman's hands simultaneously constructs and critiques its apparent subject. In this sense, Sherman's unique form of portrait photography functions, in part, as a sign for the subjective nature of all human intelligence and the unstable nature of visual perception.

Biography

Cindy Sherman Photo

Childhood

Cindy Sherman was born January 19, 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey (virtually a suburb of New York City). Shortly after Cindy's birth, the family moved to Huntington, Long Island, where Cindy grew up as the youngest of five children. Although her parents shared a general disinterest in the arts-her father was an engineer and her mother a reading teacher-Sherman chose to study art in college, enrolling at the State University of New York, at Buffalo, in the early 1970s.

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Cindy Sherman Biography Continues

Important Art by Cindy Sherman

The below artworks are the most important by Cindy Sherman - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Untitled Film Still #13 (1978)
Artwork Images

Untitled Film Still #13 (1978)

Artwork description & Analysis: Untitled Film Still #13 issues from Sherman's epic "Untitled Film Still" series (they did not actually derive from a larger movie) of the late 1970s, by which she first made a widespread reputation for herself as a witty commentator on the female role models of her youth, as well as those of an earlier generation. In this example, Sherman employs her own image as to suggest the central character in a 1960s "coming of age" romance, the young female intellectual on the verge of discovering her "true womanhood," or the prototypical virgin. Maturing in the 1970s in the midst of the American Womens' Movement, later known as the rise of Feminism, Sherman and her generation learned to see through mass media cliches and appropriate them in a satirical and ironic manner that made viewers self conscious about how artificial and highly constructed "female portraiture" could prove on close inspection.

Black and White photograph - The Museum of Modern Art

Untitled Film Still #21 (1978)
Artwork Images

Untitled Film Still #21 (1978)

Artwork description & Analysis: When the Museum of Modern Art announced in 1996 that it had just acquired Sherman's complete Untitled Film Still series, the curators knew they had laid claim to one of the most representative works of the early 1980s American movement of "appropriation," and "simulationism." Both terms refer to American artists' mimicking, in the first half of the 1980s, former art masterpieces or widely circulating images in the mass media, and critically reworking them to arouse a sense of unease in the viewer, indeed often suggesting that culture had become largely a game of theatrical posing and egoistic pretense. As Peter Galassi, then-curator of photography stated, "Sherman's singular talent and sensibility crystallized broadly held concerns in the culture as a whole, about the role of mass media in our lives, and about the ways in which we shape our personal identities. Here, Sherman takes on the role of the small-town girl just happening upon the Big City. She is, typically, at first suspicious of the metropolitan lights and shadows, only to be eventually seduced by its undeniable attractions.

Black and White photograph - The Museum of Modern Art

Untitled, "Sex Pictures" Series (1983)
Artwork Images

Untitled, "Sex Pictures" Series (1983)

Artwork description & Analysis: Intended by the artist to shock the unsuspecting viewer, the Sex Pictures series features anatomical dolls arranged in compromising positions. Set clearly apart from actual pornography, the photograph cruelly comments on the greater dehumanization of women in life, as well as in art since time immemorial. Her space is claustrophobic, the body little more than a tool of raw desire, while the accoutrements of "beauty," such as hairbrush, skimpy panties, and the like, are strewn haphazardly around her. Once again, Sherman extracts certain conventions from their usual contexts, where they are often obscured by a host of attendant desires, and baldly reframes them as objects of intense, analytical attention. The effect is something that neither a medical investigation nor a political speech could convey with such vivid precision. Sherman suddenly "makes strange" the everyday, or the familiar, in ways that suggest we often trod through our lives while sleepwalking.

Color photograph - The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

More Cindy Sherman Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Cindy Sherman
Interactive chart with Cindy Sherman's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Robert LongoRobert Longo
Charles CloughCharles Clough

Personal Contacts

Barbara Jo RevelleBarbara Jo Revelle

Movements

Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Performance ArtPerformance Art

Influences on Artist
Cindy Sherman
Cindy Sherman
Years Worked: 1975 - Present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Robert MapplethorpeRobert Mapplethorpe
Andres SerranoAndres Serrano
Catherine OpieCatherine Opie

Personal Contacts

John WatersJohn Waters

Movements

PostmodernismPostmodernism

Useful Resources on Cindy Sherman

Videos

Books

Websites

Articles

Audio

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Cindy Sherman 1975-1993

By Rosalind Krauss

Cindy Sherman (October Files) Recomended resource

By Johanna Burton

Cindy Sherman

By Regis Durand, Jean-Pierre Criqui, Laura Mulvey

More Interesting Books about Cindy Sherman
The Ever-Shifting Selves Of Cindy Sherman, Girlish Vamp to Clown Recomended resource

By Roberta Smith
May 28, 2004

Portraits of the Artist as an Actor

By Benjamin Genocchio
Published: April 4, 2004

For the Love of Art

By Nathan Lee
New York Times
Published: March 27, 2009

Cindy Sherman

The Journal of Contemporary Art
Interview By Therese Lichtenstein

More Interesting Articles about Cindy Sherman

in pop culture

Guest of Cindy Sherman (2008)

Witty documentary of the artist

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Bonnie Rosenberg

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Bonnie Rosenberg
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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