The Eerie Art Of Cindy Sherman

cindy shermanFew people know what the real Cindy Sherman really looks like, so easily does she slip into her disparate personae. She is the ultimate chameleon. Born in 1954, she is one of America’s most celebrated photographers. You can see her influence in everyone from musician Kim Gordon to film makers Rachel Maclean and Alice Lowe .Using a range of wigs, props, and domestic situations, Sherman presents the viewer with women from different backgrounds: from film noir heroines reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock, to historical figures, to grotesque mutant clowns which stare back, there is no genre she cannot represent.

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Untitled Film Stills (1978 Cindy Sherman)

Most successful are her bored repressed housewives, thwarted lovers and troubled girls from the famous Untitled Film Stills series of photos (1977-80) which seethe with longing, desire and unfulfilled lives. These act like little vignettes of fury and things tacit, never gratuitous but always slightly ‘off’, insidious.The details (crumpled up letters, a bored look, a cigarette held just so,marks on a wall, groceries) become symbols of drudgery and wanting something better. Feminism runs throughout, a voicing for the silenced .

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From the Untitled Film Stills series: Cindy Sherman

Were her self-starred photographs not enough, her full-length film Office Killer (1997) takes these anti-heroines and their struggles to their ridiculous natural conclusion. Carol Kane is the lead- a creepy, squeaky voiced mouse woman tired of being ignored.What she does to ensure her status is more schlocky than shocking, and the horror is offset by the wry humour of parody. But the film critics were not amused- a quick scan of Rotten Tomatoes sees 1 /2 star reviews everywhere.Shame, they are a knowing wink to genre pieces, and should be respected as such- talk about missing the point. Like a bad song or fast food, it’s trash, but what divine trash.

(Lorna Irvine)

office killer poster

Film poster, 1997


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