Cindy Sherman, an artist dressing up as a means of escape and failing her first photography test. The elegant yet stylish woman, Cynthia Morris Sherman won the artist recognition by being the beauty and the brain behind the enigmatic black-and-white self-portraits of Untitled Film Stills (1977-80).
Sherman is an American photographer and film director born in New Jersey on 19th January, 1954 and grew up in Long Island. She stepped into the male-dominated world of painting and photography by attending State University College in Buffalo, New York. Focused on photography in her college, with the help of her friends Charles Clough and Robert Longo she was able to create the Hallwalls, a reputed art centre and model laboratory for artists.
After graduating in 1977, along with Robert Longo, she started working on the Untitled Film Stills. She used costumes and make-up, masquerading herself in range of characters to produce her first self-portraits. Behind all those grainy shots is the all-in-one, author, director, hairstylist, make-up, wardrobe mistress and the stunning model, Cindy Sherman herself.
Sherman never titled any of her self-portraits; she separated herself from those characters this way. She works as if both revealing and hiding her identity at the same time, named yet nameless. “I feel I’m anonymous in my work. When I look at the pictures, I never see myself; they are not self-portraits. Sometimes I disappear.”
In 1980-81, Cindy produced a color films like Rear Screen Projections and Centrefolds. The shoots were commissioned for the Artforum filled with haunted, exposed and troubled women. It bore a severe criticism by feminist critics claiming that Cindy Sherman was “reinforcing sexist stereotypes”. In 1982, she created The Pink Robe, an outstanding series to boost fashion industry.
Later in 1983, with the making of Untitled #122, Cindy Sherman portrayed herself as a character oppressed with tension and anger that she was unable to express. Face covered with long blonde hair, partly visible bloodshot eyes, and clenched fists shows a woman struggling with herself and the harsh world.
From 1985-1990, She used visible mannequins and theatrical props to make distressing and comical portrays. Fairy Tales (1985) influenced by horror movies and History Portraits (1989-90) in which Sherman portrayed herself as famous artistic figures of past like Raphael’s La Fornarina, Jean Fouquet’s Madonna of Melun.
Sex Pictures produced in 1992 was a response to attacks on freedom of expression by the Christian Fundamentalists and extreme rightwing elements in the United States. Sherman next releases, The Horror and Surrealist Pictures (1994-96), were claustrophobic works, which depicted a sense of sadness and disillusionment. Mannequins, toys, broken households and rotten garbage were used that provided a darker depth in portrays.
Between 2003 and 2004, she worked on a series Clown cycle, a digital photography creation filled with dazzling backdrops and mosaic of different characters. She released untitled Society Portraitsare in 2008.
In MoMA exhibition, 2012, she created photographic mural (2010–11) in which, Sherman transformed her face digitally, and exaggerating her features through Photoshop by elongating her nose, narrowing her eyes, or creating smaller lips.
Among her awards are the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (1993); Wolfgang Hahn Prize (1997); Guild Hall Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual Arts (2005); American Academy of Arts and Sciences Award (2003); National Arts Award (2001); and the Roswitha Haftmann Prize (2012). She was elected as an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2010.
Cindy Sherman being an outstanding photographer always raised the question of representation of women in society and the media through her art. In addition, she is still on the way to explore more about these important questions.