Cindy Sherman

Biography of Cindy Sherman

Contemporary Art’s most accomplished image maker, Cindy Sherman, is capable of weaving complicated narratives into just one shot. Although she features in all of her photographs, the photographs are anything but autobiographical. From sex dolls, clowns, girl-next-doors, figures from classical paintings, even a dead body, Sherman can cunningly alter her appearance to suit her photographic needs. Often her roleplays are drawn from the realm of mass-advertising, drawing attention to the artificial constructs of intense consumerism. 


The youngest of five children, Cindy Sherman was born on the 19th of January 1954 in New Jersey. When she exploded on to the 1980s New York art scene, with a series of film stills from made-up films, Sherman put to bed the pervasive notion that the camera never lies. This hugely-successful series of 69 black and white photographs challenged cultural stereotypes propounded by the media.


Raised as an Episcopalian, she struggled with the bigoted and racist attitudes of her overbearing father. Even as a young child she sought solace in dressing up and putting on make-up. She now believes that her drive for dressing up was in part a reaction to the sweeping political and social changes of the 1960s and 70s.


Usually Cindy Sherman takes the photographs herself by using a set of mirrors to position things exactly how she wants. Although occasionally she has been known to direct someone standing behind the camera. Her self-portraits are deceptive and often unrecognizable, allowing her to explore our perceptions of femininity, identity, and vulnerability.


After being commissioned to produce a centerfold for ArtForum magazine, the editor at the time, Ingrid Sischy, rejected the work for being too extreme—they revealed terrified, and haunted women. Cindy Sherman followed this up with the series Disasters and Fairy Tales in 1989. This series exemplified the dark and unnerving direction she was taking, which proved to be controversial, challenging viewers to discover beauty within the detritus and mold of her images. By now her photos were selling for $1million each, a huge amount for a living photographer.


Always ready to try out new ideas, in 1997 Cindy Sherman crossed over from photography to making films. Her directorial debut, Office Killer starring Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn quickly became a cult classic. Three years later, in 2000, she released a series of photographs of women with exaagerated attributes—a representation of social role-playing and sexual stereotypes.


Cindy Sherman has received numerous awards over her lifetime, including the Wolfgang Hahn Prize in 1997. In 2010 she was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. In 2006, Cindy Sherman was honored with a retrospective of her work at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris. In 2012 she had a hugely significant exhibition at MoMA New York, which included a photographic mural. She continues to explore sexual stereotypes and social role-playing in her more recent work. 

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