Cindy Sherman (born January 19, 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey) is an American photographer and film director known for her conceptual self-portraits.
Sherman currently works in New York.
Cindy Sherman was born on January 19, 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, USA. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to the township of Huntington, Long Island.
She became interested in the visual arts at college (SUNY Buffalo), and started painting. Becoming frustrated with the what she saw as painting's limitation, she abandoned it and took up photography. "[T]here was nothing more to say [through painting]. I was meticulously copying other art and then I realized I could just use a camera and put my time into an idea instead." She spent the rest of her college career focused on photography. Though she had failed a required photography class as a freshman, she took the course again with Barbara Jo Revelle, who she credits with introducing her to conceptual art and other contemporary trends. While in college she met Robert Longo, and together with Charles Clough, created Hallwalls, an arts center.
Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. For example, in her landmark 69 photograph series, the Complete Untitled Film Stills, (1977-1980) Sherman appeared as B-movie, foreign film and film noir style actresses. Sherman's most recent series, dated 2003, features her as clowns. 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.
In response to cuts to NEA funding and attempts to censor photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, in 1989 Sherman produced the Sex series. These photographs featured pieced-together medical dummies in flagrante delicto. Like much of Sherman's work, many critics find the series both disturbing and funny.
The Untitled Film Stills
The Untitled Film Stills are all black and white photos in which Sherman places herself as an unnamed actress in shots reminiscent of foreign films, Hollywood pictures, B-movies, and film noir. 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:
- The first six are grainy and slightly out of focus (e.g. Untitled #4), and each of the 'roles' appears to be played by the same blonde actress.
- The next group was taken in 1978 at Robert Longo's family beach house on the north fork of Long Island. (Sherman met Longo during her sophomore year, and they were a couple until late 1979)
- Later in 1978, Sherman began taking shots in outdoor locations around the city. E.g. Untitled Film Still #21
- Sherman later returned to her apartment, preferring to work from home. She created her version of a Sophia Loren character from the movie Two Women. (E.g. Untitled Film Still #35 (1979))
- She took several photographs in the series while preparing for a trip to Arizona with her parents. Untitled Film Still #48 (1979), also known as The Hitchhiker, was shot at sunset one evening during the trip.
- The remainder of the series was shot around New York, like Untitled #54, often featuring a blonde victim typical of film noir.
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.
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.
In 2006, Sherman created a series of fashion advertisements for designer Marc Jacobs. The advertisements themselves were photographed by photographer Juergen Teller and released as a monograph on April the 4th by Rizzoli.
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 this reference to Sherman's work: "She takes Cindy Sherman pictures/And she cuts herself."
She's also the subject of The Shermans' song, "Cindy Sherman". A documentary, "Guest of Cindy Sherman" is currently in the works about the travails of artist/videographer Paul H-O and his relationship with the great artist (to air on the Sundance Channel in 2008). The feature documentary is directed by H-O and Tom Donahue.
Cindy Sherman is credited in the 'thanks' section of Tiny Colour Movies by British artist and musician John Foxx.