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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

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

Summary

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.
Billboard advertisement for an exhibition by Cindy Sherman in Istanbul, Turkey
Billboard advertisement for an exhibition by Cindy Sherman in Istanbul, Turkey

Talking about her self-portraits, Cindy Sherman described how, as the youngest child and “total latecomer” in her family, she often dressed up to occupy herself, wondering, "If you don’t like me this way, how about you like me this way? Or maybe you like this version of me."

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

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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
Available from:
First published on 01 Dec 2010. Updated and modified regularly.
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