Cindy Sherman Extraordinaire
Queen of metamorphosis, American photographer and director Cindy Sherman (1954-) is today recognized worldwide for her series of photographs questioning Western women's image and identity. Modeling her own photographs for more than forty years, the artist constantly changes her identity and does not consider her works as self-portraits. Influenced by, among other things, advertising, television, and images from women's magazines, this one-of-a-kind artist recently extended her work to social media by taking over Instagram. She also signed the open letter #NotSurprised, denouncing harassment and sexual assault in the art world.
"Although I never saw my work as feminist or as a political statement, it is certain that everything in it was drawn from my observations as a woman in this culture. "
The youngest of five children, Cynthia Morris Sherman was born on January 19, 1954 in New Jersey. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to Huntington (Long Island), where "Cindy" remained throughout her youth.
Wishing to study art, she entered Buffalo State College in 1972 and began painting. At the time, she was already making herself up to embody different characters from her imagination and quickly abandoned painting - finding too many limits - to devote herself to other media, including photography. In 1974, she co-founded an art center, The Hallwalls, with the artists, met at Buffalo State College, Roberto Longo, Charles Clough and Nancy Dwyer.
1977 was a pivotal year for the artist, who then produced the first photographs of her internationally recognized series: Untitled Film Stills . On the 69 black and white photographs that compose her, Cindy Sherman plays different female characters from series B or films. From this period, her artistic concept was clearly established: she worked from a place, a situation, and staged herself in an environment created from scratch. Discreet about her private life, it is difficult to know if her photographs are inspired by personal events.
Although she does not claim to be feminist or politically engaged, Cindy Sherman has repeatedly worked from female stereotypes. Her series Centerfolds (1981) draw attention to the clichés conveyed by television, film, or the press. She also collaborates with many women's magazines, fashion designers, and musicians since 1983.
She sparked controversy in the early 1990s when she created Sex Pictures (1992), a series of photographs that depicts plastic dolls in a raw and sexual way, in an aesthetic that seems inspired by the work of Hans Bellmer. Trunk women, dismembered or reduced to an orifice, these photographs question and criticize the way in which women and their sexuality continue to be represented in public space.
In 1997, her horror film and first feature film Office Killer also dealt with the place of women in Western society.
A fan of film photography, Cindy Sherman went digital in the early 2000s with her series Clowns (2003–2004). Living with the times, the artist is not afraid to use the new technologies at her disposal. Last summer, she also made her Instagram account public, revealing to the curious plethora of retouched selfies.
In 2012, she exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where she had already exhibited at the end of the 1990s. Museums such as the Pompidou Center, the MoMA or the Tate in London have photos of the artist, who continues yet to be created.
Her key works
The "Stills", a particular genre of B-series from the 1950s-1960s, greatly inspired Cindy Sherman in the making of this series of shots. We see her grimaced, embodying different female characters of the American way of life , from housewife to rigid power woman, all in a very dated setting. In this series, the 69 black and white photographs highlight the stereotypical roles that actresses of the mid XX th century were stationed and criticize, watermark, social limitations to the "second sex."
History Portraits / Old Masters , 1988–1990
Embodying turns a Virgin and Child, clergy, Salome holding the severed head of John the Baptist or a notable of the XVII th century, Cindy Sherman is unrecognizable in this series of color photographs. The prostheses she uses to dress up - false nose, frontal extension, wigs ... - are not hidden by the artist, who questions, in hollow, the artificial character of what the public considers, without asking questions, like masterpieces.
Clowns , 2003–2004
Strange, the clowns of Cindy Sherman do not leave indifferent. The garish colors and the excessive makeup of the transformed photographer's face help make the atmosphere disturbing. Unlike the characters supposed to be funny and linked to the infantile world, Cindy Sherman's clowns display a forced, almost threatening smile. Some see this series as a critique of post-9/11 American society, which tries to smile as it waits for the horror to pass.
By Marine Vazzoler © Beaux Arts Magazine