Originally published in the July 2012 Marina Times San Francisco
“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
Cindy Sherman became one of the most famous photographers in the world by expounding on what at first seems like a simple idea: the self portrait. Her costumed character portraits explore the very nature of personality and the sense of self in modern times. Using wigs, prosthetics and makeup to transform her face, sometimes with results that are hideous, Sherman references cinema styles, classic portraiture, horror and camp.
Born in 1954 in New Jersey, Sherman became interested in photography while in art school. Fellow artist Robert Longo encouraged her interest in dressing up which lead to her theatrical self portraits which have sold for record-breaking prices. Part acting and part documentation, the Cindy Sherman retrospective covers all her major periods: the “Untitled Film Stills” (1977-1980), a series of black and white portraits citing influences from film noir and European art films of the sixties, the History Portraits (1989-1990) showing Sherman in elaborate costumes posing as a member of the blueblood royals and the ruling class, the “Society Portraits” (2008) which explore the topics of femininity and aging amidst a youth-obsessed culture as well as her larger than life photographic murals from 2010.
Ultimately, Cindy Sherman’s work challenges our most basic assumptions about identity. “We’re all products of what we want to project to the world. Even people who don’t spend any time, or think they don’t, on preparing themselves for the world out there – I think that they have for their whole lives groomed themselves to be a certain way, to present a face to the world.”
Cindy Sherman’s provocative self-portraits will be on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from July 14 through October 8, 2012.