“Untitled Film Stills”

Cindy Sherman, “Untitled Film Stills Number 14” 1978. Photograph

Sherman’s work is a perfect example of how a body of work can take on a whole new meaning – a meaning maybe not intended, or at least foreseen by the artist. The infamous Film Stills have been linked to early feminist art as well as the rebellious youth culture of New York in the late 70s. These staged images are not self-portraits, but caricatures, or stereotypes, of cinematic women: the ingenue, the femme fatale, the doe-eyed girl next door. We are much more aware of our role as a viewer (or voyeur). We could even go as far as saying that Sherman is watching us watch her. Ideas about the powerful male gaze on women has been applied to Sherman’s work, yet when asked, Sherman admits that this never occurred to her when creating the images. For her, the character – who this woman was, how she thinks, where she came from – was much more central. I think there is a degree of honesty and courage in Sherman’s images – even though they are largely contrived and fictional. Yet they tell us much more about women then a lot of more traditional portraiture ever could. This goes to show, for me, the beauty of studying art – meaning is multifaceted, and multidimensional!

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