Portrait of a Woman

Cindy Sherman Artist Untitled Secretary
Photograph: Untitled (Secretary), 1978 via Artsy

For decades, Cindy Sherman has created captivating photos that are an odd mixture of beauty, mystery and peculiarity. Cindy began creating her works as an artist in the 1970s in New York City. What began as dressing up at home and playing with makeup, turned into the beginnings of her career as an artist, and our invitation as viewers to explore the ideas and identities presented in her work.

Though they appear to be self-portraits with Cindy in front of the lens, we never truly see the real Cindy. Each image is instead a glimpse into the world of the character she has created. 

Cindy Sherman Artist
Top Photograph: Untitled #410, 2003 via Christie’s
Middle Photograph: Untitled #465, 2008 via MoMA
Bottom Photograph: Untitled Film Still #14, 1978 via The Whitney Museum 

Clown. Debutante. Secretary. Washed up film star. Centerfold. Career girl. Housewife. The list of characters explored by Cindy is seemingly endless. Women have been subject to labels assigned by society and the culture of the given time period. By presenting these various types of women in their sometimes cliche or caricature-like forms, Cindy offers a critique of female identities and stereotypes. 

The photos are a blend of cinematic qualities with performance art and photography, but that does not mean they are always pretty pictures. With stereotypes formed by layers of meaning, Cindy blends the expected, the beautiful and sometimes unsightly qualities of a woman being labeled with a particular stereotype. 

Cindy Sherman Artist
Top Photograph: 
Untitled Film Still #21, 1978 via MoMA 
Bottom Photograph: Untitled, 2000 via The Garb Wire
Is a woman simply identified by her job? Her tan lines? Her choice of makeup? These aspects of who we are as women often contribute to the labels that others give us. But that doesn’t mean we are confined to any label. Whether the label is true or not, we as women are not only comprised of merely the clothes we wear or the job we have, but our life experiences, mindsets, dreams and ideas. 

Each day and choice is an opportunity to shape your own journey and the woman you want to be. 

Sources and Further Reading: 
1. Cindy Sherman by Eva Respini for The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)