Cindy Sherman was born in 1954 in the suburbs of New York. For once, destiny wasn’t set in stone ahead of time. Sherman would leave her family home to study art at the University of New York – Buffalo, initially choosing to study painting. “I didn’t want to make great art, and I wasn’t interested in using paint. I wanted to find something that anyone could get on board with without knowing about contemporary art. I didn’t think in terms of precious quality prints; I didn’t want my work to look like merchandise.” After her series Untitled Film Stills put the spotlight on her work in 1977, the magazine Artforum ordered a series of photos from her in 1981 that would then be distributed to men’s magazines. Entitled Centerfolds or Horizontals, Untitled #96 is its crowning gem.
By casting an intentionally scathing eye on American society, Cindy Sherman naturally makes a connection between femininity and discipline, unwittingly making herself the spearhead of a new feminist wave. She literally puts herself into her work, not by taking her own photo, but by taking shots that have false airs of self-portraits. By telling different stories, Sherman invents a brand new dialogue with the spectator. “I try to make others recognize something about themselves through me,” she specifies. This ambiguous piece thus seeks to denounce the sexism that every woman is a victim of on the daily, whether consciously or not.
It’s through this very same media that itself conveys the idea of the body’s availability that she denounces the performative power of magazines. She wanted to single out the seductive yet oppressive influence of the media on individual and collective identities. In a decade where media was becoming mass and sought to diffuse the image of a strong woman who could consume for herself, Cindy Sherman turned the camera on herself in a fragile position of questioning. With a kitsch shade of orange, Sherman escapes the traps of misogynistic feminism to anchor herself a bit more in reflection in the pages of men’s magazines. This photo went for the tidy sum of $3,890,000 at Christie’s in 2011.
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