30th October 2021
“I’m trying to make other people recognise something of themselves rather than me”
Sherman’s self-portrait photographs cover many themes, historic eras, society portraits, centrefolds and characters from movies. Her work is clever and thought provoking, altering her appearance using costume and props, make-up, hairstyles, facial expressions and her later works uses prosthetic make-up. Sometimes she would change the gender of men that appeared in the historic paintings to female.
She re-enacts the roles herself and does not use other people for her work. She is,
Both the photographer and the models in the pictures is Sherman herself, making the series a perfect condensation of postmodernism photographic practice: She is both observer and observed.Cotton, C. (2014:193)
The ‘mask’ like series which was created in the mid-1990s is linked with identity and the staged photographs exaggerate the human portrait sitters existence, and for me, personally, transforms them into something hideous akin to the work of Ralph Eugene Meatyard, whose post can be found here.
Having researched a little around the theme of ‘masks’ and looking at the dictionary meaning for masquerade, I find that her appearance which includes costume and props completes her ‘masked’ identity and her theatrical appearance is realistically daunting, because she is representing stereotypes found in modern society. Beaumont and Newhall (2016) state,
While she sometimes portrays glamorous characters, Sherman has always been more interested in the grotesque. In the 1980s and 1990s, series such as the disasters (1986–89) and the sex pictures (1992) confronted viewers with the strange and ugly aspects of humanity in explicit, visceral images. “I’m disgusted with how people get themselves to look beautiful; I’m much more fascinated with the other side,”2 she said in 1986. At the time, images of ailing bodies were painfully on view in the news during the AIDS crisis; these added poignancy to her investigation of the grotesque and of various types of violence that could be done to the body. In these series and throughout all of her work, Sherman subverts the visual shorthand we use to classify the world around us, drawing attention to the artificiality and ambiguity of these stereotypes and undermining their reliability for understanding a much more complicated reality.
(2) Larry Frascella, “Cindy Sherman’s Tales of Terror,” Aperture 86.103 (Summer 1986): 49.Beaumont, K. G. and Newhall, N (2016)
Although her concept, context and content will not influence my work for Assignment 5, this research has begun the first steps in getting to know both her, as a photographer, and her work.
To learn more about Cindy Sherman, I have purchased the Phaidon Focus book, Cindy Sherman, which introduces the key achievements of Sherman’s career. I am hoping, time permitting that I am able to write a review of the book and create a seperate post.
What I have found by looking through this book is that because it has been divided up into sections and images are representing her different series within these divisions, her work actually produces different feelings within me.
When we look on the internet and search Shermans name and work, we are met with many of her grotesque works, or her well known ones. It is the same when we click on a link and are taken to other peoples posts, blogs or website information. It seems to me that many of the people writing about Sherman just use those images they can find on the internet. This in turn means the same images are circulated around, and around. By purchasing books we are given a wider voice of information and a larger visual representation of work.
Already by looking through this book, my view point of Cindy Sherman’s work has changed. I now see more than the grotesque. The subtle and intelligent works as well are being introduced to me. Dare I say it? Her work is beginning to ignite a curiosity and her images have started to creep up my ‘like’ scale.
Fig. 1 Sherman, C. (1975) Untitled A. [Photograph] At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/sherman-untitled-a-p11437 (Accessed) 30.10.21)
Fig. 2 Sherman, C. (2000) Untitled #359 [Photograph] At: https://awomensthing.org/blog/cindy-sherman/ (Accessed 30.10.21)
Fig. 3 (1994) Untitled #299 [Photograph] At: https://awomensthing.org/blog/cindy-sherman/ (Accessed 30.10.21)
Belphoebe (2019) Six enigmatic photographers who shattered the traditions of portraiture. At: https://www.dazeddigital.com/art-photography/article/45018/1/six-enigmatic-photographers-who-shattered-the-traditions-of-portraiture (Accessed 30.10.21)
Gaylord, K. G. and Newhall, N. (2016). Cindy Sherman, American born 1954. At: https://www.moma.org/artists/5392 (Accessed 30.10.21)
Cotton, C. (2014:193) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd Ed.) London: Thames and Hudson Ltd
Bright, S. (2010) Autofocus: The Self-portrait in Contemporary Photography (1st Ed.) London: Thames and Hudson