In her representation of a stereotyped "femininity," Sherman borrows various pictorial strategies from her sources — a nostalgic photographic style, dated costume, moody lighting, objectifying camera angles, and a partial narrative approach.
However, she has not presented herself as a slick fashion magazine subject but rather as an eccentric, un-glamorous model in ill-fitting clothes, challenging the industry’s conventions of beauty and grace.
Only traces of a figure remain in the form of dismembered body parts strewn across bug-infested dirt, eyes reflected in a make-up mirror amidst the detritus of a dump site, a face composed of a mass of gooey, melting candy.
Theatrical and artificial — full of large noses, bulging bellies, squirting breasts, warts, and unibrows — the history portraits are humorous re-presentations and grotesque caricatures of the Old Master paintings.
One hybridized figure poses with a tampon in its vagina, another with sausages excreting from its vulva, and others arranged in ways that are utterly and deliberately un-erotic, which functions to challenge porn industry standards.
Through melting and cutting, she dismembers, mutilates and reconstructs dolls that were originally unnaturally exaggerated toys such as Barbie, GI Joe, the Disney characters Aladdin and Hercules and the gay-stereotype Billy and Carlos dolls.
Adding to the complexity, Sherman leaves the prosthetic noses, fake eyebrows, and artificial breasts obviously forged, undermining the believability of the carefully suggested narrative, and forcing the viewer to confront the staged aspect of the work.
Sherman’s highly artistic “selfies” appearing periodically on Instagram throw into relief how the social media platform is a digital dumping ground for society’s least artistic narcissists.
Written by Maura Reilly
Produced by Erica Galluscio
© Cindy Sherman. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.