Cindy Sherman, one of the most respected artists to have arisen within the last twenty years, was born in 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Today she lives and works in New York City. She is noted for her photography, unusual in that she is not only behind the lens, but in front of it as well. Although the subject in her own photographs, her work cannot be called self-portraiture. It is instead the artist’s commentary on aspects of feminine identity; an “exploration of how people, and how women in particular, create their own identity .” In the words of the artist herself, she is “trying to make other people recognize something about themselves rather than about me .”
As a child, Cindy Sherman spent much time in front of the mirror, dressing up, applying makeup, and then walking around the neighborhood to “fool the neighbors, things like that .” When studying in Buffalo, NY, she was famous for parading around as Lucille Ball. This was a way of “pacifying myself when I was depressed” and “a way of being entertaining at parties .”
The art market crash of the 1990s spared Sherman unlike many of her contemporaries. In 1995, she received a MacArthur “genius grant”. In 1996 the New York Museum of Modern Art paid $1 million dollars for her first series of work, “Untitled Film Stills” and in the same year was signed on as an artist-director for a low-budget film about an office worker who turned serial killer. In the summer of 1997 Madonna sponsored a Sherman retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, “The Complete Untitled Film Stills”.
Brief chronology of her work starting in 1975-early 1980s: Sherman produced three series beginning with the famous black and white “Untitled Film Stills”, followed by colored photographs of herself in various “almost recognizable ” female roles, and then finally by what some have called the “Centerfolds.” All deal with the issue of culturally imposed feminine stereotypes and “gaze”.
1983-1984: “Fashion photos” parody the fashion model image.
1985-1991: “Disasters and Fairytales”, “disgust pictures” and the “Civil War” series, as described by Krause , show metamorphosed and mutated bodies, sometimes co-mingled with bodily fluids. Sherman is less evident in the photos, being replaced by props such as prosthetics and mannequins.
1988-1990: Inspired by her travels in Europe, Sherman makes herself up to parody the “high” portraits art of the great masters – both male and female subjects.
1992: The “mannequin” or “sex” photos depicted dramatic, sometimes violent scenes of apparent copulation.