Artist Research- Cindy Sherman


In previous work through out identity I briefly researched the work by Cindy Sherman exploring the way she uses characterisation in comparison to Thomas Ruff who uses physical likeness. Taking my identity project further an looking at creating Characterisation myself I want to research further into the way Sherman creates her personas making them each individuals.

Cindy Sherman is an American photographer best known for her conceptual portraits. Typically Sherman uses herself as the subject dressing up in different costumes to create vast characters. ‘Clowns’,’centerfolds,’fashion’ and ‘fairytales and disasters’ are a few of her collections where she uses extreme makeup, wigs and props to transform herself into different characters.

Her series ‘Untitled film stills’ (between 1977 and 1980) presented 69 black and white portraits where again she invented herself as different characters resembling moments in films. Characterization is used in this series through the use of her vintage clothing, wigs and makeup used to transform herself into different personas.As Sherman only used herself throughout this series without the use of these props and disguises she wouldn’t be able to create different characters and personalities as well as they are. I feel the whole idea of her series is based around characterisation with Sherman being the own director of how she wants herself presented and how the different images are set up to look like a freeze frame from a film. Sherman posed in different off guard stances also building up the characterisation of herself in the shot, for example mid speech or unguarded moments of reflection which makes it seem like there’s a personality behind the model and a scene behind the photograph.

In an article about Sherman’s work it was said, “her approach forms an ironic message that creation is impossible without the use of prototypes, identity lies in appearance not in reality” Although her characters are false she wanted to look for truths about identity, showing the power of women but also the vulnerability.

‘Since Sherman’s characters in the untitled film stills are not specified, we are free to construct our own narratives for these women’

This is an aspect in Sherman’s work I find interesting, portraits are often assumed to mirror reality, Sherman creates this instead however not only does she create the identities its open for the public to make their own assumptions on these characters.

This again is something I want to take forward in my work again, with different characters assumingly the audience would create different identities for these people based on their appearance however they are the same person. From her work and the work by Samuel Fosso and Nikki.S.Lee I’ll use makeup and costume just to create different identities question what someone’s true identity is and how this is recognised.

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