영상:: Cindy Sherman. :: 2007.04.01 17:10


“For me, my fascination with death and horrible things is wanting to be prepared for the worst, in a way, to see it over and over again and then
laugh at it.”
—Sherman [1]

Cindy Sherman was born in 1954 in New Jersey, USA. She studied at the State of University College in Buffalo, NY, where she received a BA in the field of photography. She moved to New York in 1977, and in the same year — Sherman twenty-three — began creating her landmark photographic series, “Untitled Film Stills.” The series had a new approach, she would invent numerous female, stereotype characters from contemporary society that reflected post-war America. E.g. a blonde sex-bomb, a jealous wife, a succulent librarian, and many more. In each 8-by-10 inch shot, she expressed strong similarities with 1950s B-movies and classic film noir scenes. Her concept would be an eye-opener, and Sherman once explained to the media about her motive, “The male half of society has structured the whole language of how women see and think about themselves.”[2] And she took these visible clichés presented in films, television, fashion, advertising, art, and magazines, and adapted them into her photos. Even with a groundbreaking theme, Sherman went further by portraying herself as the actress to these imaginary women characters. In the shoes of her own creations, she would not unveil depth about herself, nor different age ranges, but rather tell a story — a provoking examination of society which focuses solely on the character and its moment of situation. It would be an emotional and intense narrative reflecting real life, however, created in a theatrical, fictional manner. Sherman used props, wigs, make-up, and settings just like the movies to make her complex scenarios possible. But she didn’t require a mega-celebrity such as a Sofia Loren or Ava Gardener for its portrayal, because once you looked at each snapshot, it immediately hinted familiarities with women from our own daily life. I.e. from a battered wife, to a hooker, and let’s not forget the cold-bitch executive... Haven’t we seen these people before? This is what makes her artwork appear symbolic and intriguing to viewers. In the end, she stopped taking photos for this collection, when she ran out of clichés.

In 1995, The Museum of Modern Art acquired the full set of “Untitled Film Stills” — sixty-nine black and white photos for a public collection. This would be the 2nd time the whole series was viewed, and the exhibition was sponsored by none other than Madonna. An additional fact about this body of work is that Sherman always titled her pictures ‘Untitled,’ it was purposely done because she wasn’t and still isn’t a believer of wall labels. She felt that by adding a title it could lead to conclusions and also draw off uncertainty.

Cindy Sherman moved away from woman photo-portraits in the late 80s to a new genre of horror flick inspiration. Now, darkness emerged in an artificial exaggeration of repressed human fears — with visuals of dismembered bodies, plastic corporal parts, wigs, vivid colors and light. This theme was different from past work because it was clearly undetermined the “gender”of her creatures. Her photos included elements of fairy tales, sexuality, mutilation, death, and nightmares in a surrealist vision. She approached a gothic-terror which Author Christoph Grunenberg of novel Gothic comments about “…Gothic comes in the shape of formless and horrendous images mutilated and rotting bodies with limbs covered in boils and wounds as, for example Cindy Sherman’s disconcertingly repulsive-attractive photographs. It may also enter consciousness quietly — almost hesitantly — with realization of terror being subtly evoked.” Indeed, there is a scare factor but also a lush magnet to her work; as a result her artistic MO is confessed to be solely, her “instinct.” Sherman also admits she is a big horror flick fan, enjoying films such as “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974), “Friday the Thirteenth, and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984) — all of which give the viewer an adrenaline rush of fright, but a sense of fake fear. Fake fear is the hysterical scream Sherman is trying to interpret. She comments in one of her very few existing interviews: “For me, my fascination with death and horrible things is wanting to be prepared for the worst, in a way, to see it over and over again and then laugh at it.” [3] Not stopping just with photos, in 1997, Sherman put her horror interest into directing her first feature film, “Office Killer” (starring Carol Kane and Molly Ringwall).

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