A seminal figure of the Pictures Generation, Cindy Sherman blends photography and performance to question the construction of identity, gender, and modern cultural tropes. Born in New Jersey and raised on Long Island, Sherman enrolled to study art at Buffalo State College in 1972. Before landing on photography as her primary medium, Sherman created original paper dolls to enact various scenes and even made an animation with herself as a paper doll coming to life. While living at Hallwalls, a Buffalo art space started with fellow artists Robert Longo and Charlie Clough, Sherman would use artist gatherings as occasion to assume elaborately constructed characters using makeup and thrift store clothing, which she sometimes documented on camera.
Sherman moved to New York in the summer of 1977, where she took a part-time position as a receptionist for Artists Space. That fall she began what would become her breakthrough series, the 70 photographs comprising the Untitled Film Stills. Dedicated to a certain level of ambiguity, Sherman fashioned herself after actresses of the 1950s and 60s, inhabiting familiar scenes from movies that did not exist – but might have. Sherman developed the photographs in her apartment darkroom, deliberately processing the photos to be reticulated and grainy: “the photographs were supposed to look like they cost fifty cents,” Sherman said. In 1980, The Kitchen hosted Sherman’s first New York solo show and, that same year, her works were exhibited as the debut show of the new Metro Pictures Gallery.
Rocketing into the widespread recognition, Sherman has continued to adapt and occupy various forms of imagery, from the centerfold and soft-core pornography to the historical portrait. She was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1995, the year that the Museum of Modern Art acquired Untitled Film Stills in its entirety. More recently, Sherman has used large color photography to restage classic European portraits and continues to be recognized for her ongoing deconstruction of female representation throughout history.
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