by Gerald Boerner
“I was meticulously copying other art and then I realized I could just use a camera and put my time into an idea instead.”
— 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
“If I knew what the picture was going to be like I wouldn’t make it. It was almost like it was made already.. the challenge is more about trying to make what you can’t think of.”
— Cindy Sherman
“I was feeling guilty in the beginning; it was frustrating to be successful when a lot of my friends weren’t. Also, I was constantly being reminded of that by people in my family making jokes.”
— Cindy Sherman
“When I do work, I get so much done in such a concentrated time that once I’m through a series, I’m so drained I don’t want to get near the camera.”
— Cindy Sherman
“I can’t work without it. And it has to be the right kind, because if it’s not then I get into a bad mood. I work with a remote so that I can change CDs instantly if I need to.”
— Cindy Sherman, talking about her need for music while working
“I was supporting myself, but nothing like the guy painters, as I refer to them. I always resented that actually.. we were all getting the same amount of press, but they were going gangbusters with sales.”
— Cindy Sherman
“…a significant ‘re-inventor’ of two important traditions in photographic art–photosurrealism of the 1930s and the photo-based conceptual art of the 1960s. Cindy Sherman’s influence on successive generations of artists and photographers has been, and continues to be, immense.”
— Hasselblad Award Ceremony
“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
Cindy Sherman (born: 1954)
Cindy Sherman is an American photographer and film director of Office Killer, best known for her conceptual portraits. Sherman currently lives and works in New York City. In 1995, she was the recipient of a MacArthur Award. She is represented by Sprüth Magers Berlin London in Europe and Metro Pictures gallery in New York.
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, and together with Charles Clough, created Hallwalls, an arts center.
Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. For example, in her landmark 69 photograph series, the Complete Untitled Film Stills, (1977-1980) Sherman appeared as B-movie, foreign film and film noir style actresses. A series, dated 2003, features her as clowns. Although Sherman does not consider her work feminist, many of her photo-series, like the 1981 "Centerfolds," call attention to the stereotyping of women in films, television and magazines. When talking about one of her centerfold pictures Cindy stated, "In content I wanted a man opening up the magazine suddenly look at it with an expectation of something lascivious and then feel like the violator that they would be. Looking at this woman who is perhaps a victim. I didn’t think of them as victims at the time… But I suppose… Obviously I’m trying to make someone feel bad for having a certain expectation."
In 2006, The Jeu de Paume museum in Paris hosted an exhibition of Sherman’s works, “Cindy Sherman: A Retrospective.” It included works spanning 30 years from 1975 to 2005.
What emerges through these images is a subtle analysis of individual identity, both the fantasies that it generates and the forces that shape it. This immersion in the uncertain, conflictual zones where individual identity struggles with the collective imaginary, stereotypes and issues of symbolic power, can be either playful or—when it touches on horror and repulsion, on the decay and dismembering of the body—very dark.
In response to the NEA funding controversy involving photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, Sherman produced the Sex series in 1989. These photographs featured pieced-together medical dummies in flagrante delicto. Like much of Sherman’s work, many critics find the series both disturbing and funny.
In her work, Sherman is both revealed and hidden, named and nameless. She explained to the New York Times in 1990, "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."
The Untitled Film Stills
The Untitled Film Stills are all black and white photos in which Sherman places herself as an unnamed actress in shots reminiscent of foreign films, Hollywood pictures, B-movies, and film noir. Sherman used her own possessions as props, or sometimes borrowed, as in Untitled Film Still #11 in which the doggy pillow belongs to a friend. The shots were also largely taken in her own apartment. The Untitled Film Stills fall into several distinct groups:
The first six are grainy and slightly out of focus (e.g. Untitled #4), and each of the ‘roles’ appears to be played by the same blonde actress.
The next group was taken in 1978 at Robert Longo’s family beach house on the north fork of Long Island. (Sherman met Longo during her sophomore year, and they were a couple until late 1979)
Later in 1978, Sherman began taking shots in outdoor locations around the city. E.g. Untitled Film Still #21
Sherman later returned to her apartment, preferring to work from home. She created her version of a Sophia Loren character from the movie Two Women. (E.g. Untitled Film Still #35 (1979))
She took several photographs in the series while preparing for a trip to Arizona with her parents. Untitled Film Still #48 (1979), also known as The Hitchhiker, was shot at sunset one evening during the trip.
The remainder of the series was shot around New York, like Untitled #54, often featuring a blonde victim typical of film noir.
The Hasselblad Foundation proclaims that through this and other early work Sherman "set a new agenda for contemporary photography."
In addition to her film stills, Sherman has appropriated a number of other visual forms— the centerfold, fashion photograph, historical portrait, and soft-core sex image. These and other series, like the 1980s "Fairy Tales and Disasters" sequence, are shown at the Metro Pictures Gallery in New York City.
In 2006, Sherman created a series of fashion advertisements for designer Marc Jacobs. The advertisements themselves were photographed by photographer Juergen Teller and released as a monograph on April the 4th by Rizzoli.
In the early 1990s, Sherman worked with Minneapolis band Babes in Toyland, photographing covers for the albums Fontanelle and Painkillers, creating a stage backdrop used in live concerts, and acting in the promotional video for the song "Bruise Violet."
In 1995, Sherman was the recipient of one of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowships, popularly known as the "Genius Awards." This fellowship grants $500,000 over five years, no strings attached, to important scholars in a wide range of fields, to encourage their future creative work.
During the 1999 Hasselblad Award notification included the following information about Sherman’s body of work:
Throughout the 1980s and ’90s Sherman continued to challenge cultural and social preconceptions by exploring the position and representation of women in a society dominated by media and consumer culture. Her "Untitled Series" (fairy tales) (1985) and "History Portraits" (1989-90) explored the division between the real and the imaginary while simultaneously commenting on the position of women in history. Her sex pictures series of 1992 was made in response to the heightened conflict over censorship and the representation of sexuality in artwork at the time.
The Hasselbiad Foundation distinguishes Sherman’s work as iconic in contemporary art. As part of the first wave of postmodernists to investigate politics and gender issues in her work, Sherman helped shape our understanding of Western visual culture. The Foundation further commends Sherman for being "a significant ‘re-inventor’ of two important traditions in photographic art–photosurrealism of the 1930s and the photo-based conceptual art of the 1960s. Cindy Sherman’s influence on successive generations of artists and photographers has been, and continues to be, immense."
Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:
Cindy Sherman that can be found at…