Cindy Sherman (born January 19, 1954) is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits. Sherman currently lives and works in New York City. In 1995, she was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She is represented by Sprüth Magers Berlin London in Europe and Metro Pictures gallery in New York. Through a number of different series of works, Sherman has sought to raise challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society, the media and the nature of the creation of art.
Cindy Sherman was born on January 19, 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey as the youngest by far of five children. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to the township of Huntington, Long Island.
Sherman became interested in the visual arts at State University of New York, Buffalo, where she began painting. Frustrated with what she saw as the medium's limitations, she abandoned the form and took up photography. "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." Sherman has said about this time: "One of the reasons I started photographing myself was that supposedly in the Spring one of my teachers would take the class out to a place near Buffalo where there were waterfalls and everybody romps around without clothes on and takes pictures of each other. I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do this. But if we’re going to have to go to the woods I better deal with it early.’ Luckily we never had to do that." 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, who encouraged her to record her process of "dolling up" for parties, and together with Charles Clough, created Hallwalls, an arts center.
Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. To create her photographs, Sherman shoots alone in her studio, assuming multiple roles as author, director, make-up artist, hairstylist, wardrobe mistress—and, of course, model. Bus Riders (1976/2000) are a series of photographs that feature the artist as a variety of meticulously observed characters. The photographs were shot in 1976 but, like another series entitled Murder Mystery People, not printed or exhibited until 2000 and are among the artist's earliest work. Sherman uses elaborate costumes and make-up to transform her identity for each image, but is photographed in a sparse, obviously staged setting with a wooden chair standing in for the bus seat. In her landmark 69 photograph series, the Complete Untitled Film Stills, (1977–1980; although the 1997 traveling MOCA retrospective included five straight-on head shots dated 1975) Sherman appeared as B-movie, foreign film and film noir style actresses. When asked if she considers herself to be acting in her photographs, Sherman said, “I never thought I was acting. When I became involved with close-ups I needed more information in the expression. I couldn’t depend on background or atmosphere. I wanted the story to come from the face. Somehow the acting just happened.”
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 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." She describes her process as intuitive, and that she responds to elements of a setting such as light, mood, location, and costume, and will continue to change external elements until she finds what she wants. She has said of her process, "I think of becoming a different person. I look into a mirror next to the camera…it’s trance-like. By staring into it I try to become that character through the lens...When I see what I want, my intuition takes over—both in the 'acting' and in the editing. Seeing that other person that’s up there, that’s what I want. It’s like magic.”
The Untitled Film Stills
The series Untitled Film Stills, 1977–1980, with which Cindy Sherman achieved international recognition, consists of 69 black-and-white photographs. The artist poses in different roles and settings, producing a result reminiscent of stills typical of Italian neorealism or American film noir of the 1940s, '50s and '60s. She avoided putting titles on the images to preserve their ambiguity. Modest in scale compared to Sherman’s later cibachrome photographs, they are all 8 1/2 by 11 inches, each displayed in identical, simple black frames. 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:
In December 1995, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired all sixty-nine black-and-white photographs in Sherman's Untitled Film Stills series for an estimated $1 million.
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, were shown for the first time at the Metro Pictures Gallery in New York City. With her series Rear Screen Projections, 1980, Sherman switched from black-and-white to color and to clearly larger formats. Centerfolds/Horizontals, 1981, are inspired by the center spreads in fashion and pornographic magazines. The twelve photographs were initially commissioned -- but not used by -- Artforum's Editor in Chief Ingrid Sischy for an artist's section in the magazine. Close-cropped and close up, they portray young women in various roles, from a sultry seductress to a frightened, vulnerable victim who might have just been raped. About her aims with the self-portraits, Sherman has said: "Some of them I’d hope would seem very psychological. While I’m working I might feel as tormented as the person I’m portraying.” In Fairy Tales, 1985, and Disasters, 1986–1989, Cindy Sherman uses visible prostheses and mannequins for the first time. Between 1989 and 1990, Sherman made thirty-five much larger color photographs restaging the settings of various European portrait paintings of the fifteenth through early nineteenth centuries. Under the title History Portraits Sherman photographed herself in costumes flanked with props and prosthetics portraying famous artistic figures of the past, like Raphael’s La Fornarina, Caravaggio’s Sick Bacchus and Judith Beheadding Holofernes, or Jean Fouquet’s Madonna of Melun.
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. In 2003, finally, she produced the Clowns cycle, where the use of digital photography enabled her to create chromatically garish backdrops and montages of numerous characters.
Sherman’s career has also included several fashion series in 1983 and 1993. In 1983, fashion designer and retailer Dianne Benson commissioned Sherman to create a series of advertisements for her store, Dianne B., that appeared in several issues of Interview magazine. In the same year the French fashion house Dorothée Bis offered their own clothes for a series to appear in French Vogue. The images Sherman created for these two ‘fashion shoots’ are the antithesis of the glamorous world of fashion. The model in the photographs appears silly, angry, dejected, exhausted, abused, scarred, grimy and psychologically disturbed. Sherman also created photographs for an editorial in Harper's Bazaar in 1993. In 1994, she produced the Post Card Series for Comme des Garçons for the brand's autumn/winter 1994–95 collections in collaboration with Rei Kawakubo. In 2006, she created a series of fashion advertisements for designer Marc Jacobs. The advertisements themselves were photographed by Juergen Teller and released as a monograph by Rizzoli. For Balenciaga, Sherman created the six-image series Cindy Sherman: Untitled (Balenciaga) in 2008; they were first shown to the public in 2010. Also in 2010, Sherman started designing jewelry. In 2011, cosmetic giant M.A.C. picked Sherman as the face of their fall line. In the three images of the campaign, Sherman uses the line to completely alter her look appearing as a garish heiress, a doll-like ingénue and a full-on clown.
Music and Films
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." Sherman has also worked as a film director; her first film was Office Killer in 1997, starring Jeanne Tripplehorn, Molly Ringwald and Carol Kane. She played a cameo role in John Waters' film, Pecker. She also played a role in The Feature in 2008, starring ex-husband Michel Auder, which won a New Vision Award.
Cindy Sherman's first solo show in New York at a noncommercial space called the Kitchen in 1980. When the Metro Pictures opened later that year, Sherman's photographs were the first show.
Sherman has since participated in many international events, including SITE Santa Fe (2004); the Venice Biennale (1982, 1995); and five Whitney Biennials. Cindy Sherman lives and works in New York. In addition to numerous group exhibitions, Sherman's work was the subject of solo exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1982), Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (1987), Kunsthalle Basel (1991), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. (1995), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1998), the Serpentine Gallery in London and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (2003), and Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin (2006), among others. Major traveling retrospectives of Sherman’s work have been organized by the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam (1996); the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1997); and Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, Louisiana Museum for Moderne Kunst, Denmark, and Jeu de Paume in Paris (2006-2007). In 2009, Sherman was in included in the seminal show The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 2012, the Museum of Modern Art will mount “Cindy Sherman,” a show that will chronicle Sherman's work from the mid-1970s on and include more than 170 photographs. The exhibition will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
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. Among her awards are the 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); Jewish Museum’s Man Ray Award (2009). In 1981, Sherman was artist-in-residence at the non-profit Light Work in Syracuse, New York.
In 2010, Sherman’s nearly six foot tall chromogenic color print Untitled #153 (1985), featuring the artist as a mudcaked corpse, was sold by Phillips de Pury & Company for a record $2.7 million, near the $3 million high estimate. In 2011, a print of Untitled #96, which depicts Sherman as a lovelorn woman clutching a personal ad while lying on a kitchen floor, fetched $3.89 million dollars at Christie's, making it the most expensive photograph at that time. It was a part of an edition of 10 from 1981.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Tate Modern, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Sherman married director Michel Auder in 1984, making her step-mother to Auder's daughter, Alexandra. They later divorced in 1999.
Sherman and musician David Byrne started dating in 2007.
Sherman has been referenced by the electroclash artists Chicks on Speed in the track "Spoken by Stephanie from Marseille, Yes I Do" from the 2000 K Records album The Re-Releases of the Un-Releases. The song refers to Sherman through the lyrics, "...got more faces than Cindy Sherman." Sherman was also the topic of the song "Cindy of a Thousand Lives", from Billy Bragg's 1991 album Don't Try This at Home.
The Cherry Poppin' Daddies' song "Grand Mal" contains a reference to Sherman's work in the description of the narrator's love interest: "She takes Cindy Sherman pictures/And she cuts herself."
She's also the subject of The Shermans' song, "Cindy Sherman".
Singer Róisín Murphy has said that the music video for her song You Know Me Better is inspired by Sherman, as well as to having been influenced by her visual style throughout her career.
Sherman was referenced in The Other Guys (2010).
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Cindy Sherman is a Jewish American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits. Sherman currently lives and works in New York City. In 1995, she was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She is represented by Sprüth Magers Berlin London in Europe and Metro Pictures gallery in New York.
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