Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) is an American photographer. She studied art at Buffalo State College (1972–6), concentrating on photography, which she maintained is the appropriate medium of expression in our media-dominated civilisation. Her photographs are portraits of herself in various scenarios that parody stereotypes of woman. A panoply of characters and settings is drawn from sources of popular culture: old movies, television soaps and pulp magazines. Sherman rapidly rose to celebrity status in the international art world during the early 1980s with the presentation of a series of untitled ‘film stills’ in various group and solo exhibitions across America and Europe. Among 130 ‘film stills’ taken between 1978 and 1980 are portraits of Sherman in the role of such screen idols as Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe.
While the mood of Sherman’s early works ranges from quiet introspection to provocative sensuality, there are elements of horror and decay in the series from 1988–9. Studies from the early 1990s make pointed caricatures of characters depicted through art history, with Sherman appearing as a grotesque creature in period costume. Her approach forms an ironic message that creation is impossible without the use of prototypes; identity lies in appearance, not in reality. In this, the artist has assimilated, even while retaining a critical stance, the visual tyranny of television, advertising and magazines. Works are held in the Tate Gallery, London, and the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC, as well as in the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan and Brooklyn museums, New York.