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Cindy Sherman in "Transformation"

“I didn’t want to make what looked like art,” Cindy Sherman says about her earliest works, explaining that “film has always kind of been more influential to me than the art world.”

The segment surveys thirty years of untitled works in which the artist photographs herself in various scenes and guises, grouped into informally-named series such as fairy tales, centerfolds, history portraits, Hollywood/Hampton types, and clowns.

Sherman used a digital camera and green screen for her most recent series of society portraits, modifying each image’s “background with the same kind of license that a painter would take.” Sorting through test shots at the computer, Sherman leads the viewer through her iterative process.

The segment later follows her to a thrift store where, upon finding several “wacky pants” she wonders if this shopping trip “might be inspiring a whole new series.”

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Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Cindy Sherman

In self-reflexive photographs and films, Cindy Sherman invents myriad guises, metamorphosing from Hollywood starlet to clown to society matron. Often with the simplest of means—a camera, a wig, makeup, an outfit—Sherman fashions ambiguous but memorable characters that suggest complex lives that exist outside of the frame. Leaving her works untitled, Sherman refuses to impose descriptive language on her images—relying instead on the viewer’s ability to develop narratives. While rarely revealing her private intentions, Sherman’s investigations have a compelling relationship to public images, from kitsch to art history to green-screen technology.

“I didn’t want people to have a preconceived notion of what they’re supposed to imagine this character to be.”

Cindy Sherman

In 2008, twenty of Cindy Sherman’s History Portraits (1989–1990) were exhibited at Skarstedt Gallery in New York City. In the following interview, Sherman walks Art21 through the exhibition and discusses the ideas behind individual photographs as well as the overall series.

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