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Cindy Sherman, Femininity and the Many Selves

Updated: Apr 2, 2022

Untitled Film Still #92


Cindy Sherman explores self-portraiture, femininity, and abjection by means of the performance of self and this is essentially a Post-Modernist idea. Sherman takes a series of photographs of herself and from the film, she selects the stills she wants to display. She suggests a narrative from a film - a new process depicting the decisive moments which are filled with suspense.

Sherman utilized psychoanalytical methods on redressing 'stereotypes' primarily from the 1950s screen tradition as 'masquerades'. She was concerned with an idea that in femininity ‘costume’ is essential and essentially, nothing goes beyond it. She suggests that women are alienated from their own bodies and their sexuality.

In Untitled Film Still #2 (1977) Sherman makes use of the hidden viewer. Standing in front of the mirror in a bath towel is a woman oblivious to the viewer who looks on from outside the room. The focal signifier is the notion of proximity which is indicated by the grainy texture of the image and the obstructive door frame and the conscious area of the viewer from the subject in relation to the camera's construction.

While the seventy photographs in her Untitled series are not considered self-portraits, Sherman often includes signs of her role in the image-making process. In her images, she plays the role of both subject and photographer, while resisting the natural urge to merge these. In her conceptualization of these roles, she demonstrates how the practice of art-making and the theory of art can never be separate.

She tricks the viewer by inviting the gaze, through the expectation of placing the female figure in the traditional subservience of the mute subject is left unsaturated. Sherman produces images that make one distinctly aware of their gaze, allowing the subject to maneuver through multiple possibilities of being.

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