Cindy Sherman was born on January 19, 1954 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, USA. Shortly after her birth, her family moved to the township of Huntington, Long Island.
Sherman became interested in the visual arts at Buffalo State College, where she began painting. Frustrated with what she saw as the medium’s limitations, she abandoned the form and took up photography. “[T]here was nothing more to say [through painting],” she later recalled. “I was meticulously copying other art and then I realized I could just use a camera and put my time into an idea instead.” She spent the rest of her college career focused on photography. Though Sherman had failed a required photography class as a freshman, she repeated the course with Barbara Jo Revelle, whom she credits with introducing her to conceptual art and other contemporary forms. While in college she met Robert Longo, and together with Charles Clough, created Hallwalls, an arts center.
Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. For example, in her landmark 69 photograph series, the Complete Untitled Film Stills, (1977-1980) Sherman appeared as B-movie, foreign film and film noir style actresses. Sherman’s most recent series, dated 2003, features her as clowns. Although Sherman does not consider her work feminist, many of her photo-series, like the 1981 “Centerfolds,” call attention to the stereotyping of women in films, television and magazines.
In response to cuts to NEA funding and attempts to censor photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, in 1989 Sherman produced the Sex series. These photographs featured pieced-together medical dummies in flagrante delicto. Like much of Sherman’s work, many critics find the series both disturbing and funny.
In her work, Sherman is both revealed and hidden, named and nameless. She explained to the New York Times in 1990, “I feel I’m anonymous in my work. When I look at the pictures, I never see myself; they aren’t self-portraits. Sometimes I disappear.
In addition to her film stills, Sherman has appropriated a number of other visual forms— the centerfold, fashion photograph, historical portrait, and soft-core sex image. These and other series, like the 1980s “Fairy Tales and Disasters” sequence, are shown at the Metro Pictures Gallery in New York City.