Cindy Sherman is an American artist born in 1954. Through her work, she questions the idea that there is a core identity that makes the modern individual what he or she is, and has influenced the way generations of artists think about photography, portraiture, narrative and identity. She is well-known for being an ultimate master of self-morphing, inventing and portraying extraordinary alter egos and multiple identities that reflect our image-saturated culture. She continuously plays different roles, and thereby dissolves the limits of the subject. Being a woman is an identity problem. We are all every single one of those women that Cindy created; the blonde actress, the secretary, housewife, schoolgirl, the Latin film star and the young girl running away from home.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #3, 1977

None of Sherman’s photographs are titled, because she is trying to force the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions from them. “These are pictures of emotions personified, entirely of themselves with their own presence – not of me,” Sherman said. “When I prepare each character I have to consider what I’m working against; that people are going to look under the make-up and wigs for that common denominator, the recognisable. I’m trying to make other people recognise something of themselves rather than me.”

Cindy Sherman: Untitled #96, 1981
Cindy Sherman, Untitled #197, 1989
Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #56, 1980
Untitled (Secretary)

Through her work, she has raised challenging questions about the role and representation of women in society. She performs clichéd notions of femininity staged for the male onlooker, and by putting herself in front and behind the camera, she undermines the division of gender roles that has traditionally separated artist and model, subject and object. Much of her work is performance, improvisation, and theater. Cindy Sherman comments on the same idea that Judith Butler argued for, that our gender is manufactured through repeated images of women. Through her images she argues that femininity is not “real”, but that it is a superficial product of images, cultural expectations, and ingrained behaviours.

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