Cindy Sherman is a feminist postmodern photographer and part of the Pictures Generation. Sherman uses mass communication and advertising to explore gender and identity. Acting as her own model, she adopts the costumes and makeup of female stereotypes from art history and from modern media to examine cultural representations of women.
Sherman graduated from State University College, Buffalo in 1976 before relocating to New York City where she currently lives and works.
She was first recognized for her black & white 1977-1980 “Untitled Film Stills” series, that simulated stills from the movies of the 1940s and 1950s. She posed for all the photographs herself, acting as both creator and subject. Each photograph has a backdrop from a well-known movie and shows Sherman herself as the single female figure – not just telling a story – but making a parody of the female role models from her childhood, such as the ‘vamp’, the ‘good housewife’, etc.
In the 1980s, she made large-scale, color photographs of what she calls contemporary ‘characters’ and no longer posed herself. She used dolls and prostheses in her “Disaster” and “Sex Pictures” series.
Starting in 1989, Sherman produced a number of “History Portraits” again using herself as the model in parodies of Old Master paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Carravagio, Botticelli, or Ingres. She played the role of male and female figures with staged props, wigs, and prostheses. She explored not only self-portraiture but the whole genre of portrait-making where a sitter’s status is conveyed by attire, education, and the ability to pay for a full-length portrait.
Sherman’s “Untitled” 2002/2008 depicts herself against a background which was photographed separately and which was often blurred to enhance the theatrical nature of the shot. Her genre also includes horror and pornography as she uses props that are both humorous and disturbing. All her works remain untitled, freeing the viewer to develop their own personal narrative. “I am trying to make other people recognize something of themselves rather than me.”
Over the course of her career, Sherman has had major solo exhibitions worldwide. She had a major retrospective at MoMA in 2013. She has won the Guild Hall Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in the same year.
Her works are held in important museums collections, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and Tate Gallery among others.