American artist Cindy Sherman is a photographer and filmmaker famed for her conceptual self portraits. Sherman is considered one of the defining artists of the Pictures Generation, a group of artists who, beginning in the 1970s, synthesized shrewd explorations of identity with the changing face of mass media and popular American culture.
Raised in Long Island, New York, Sherman began studying painting at Buffalo State College in 1972, eventually giving up the medium in favor of photography. She completed her best-known work at the age of 23, Untitled Film Stills, a series of 70 black-and-white photographs of the artist dressed as a variety of women characters and caricatures, including bombshells, seductresses, ingénues and housewives. Inspired by art house films and b-films, Sherman carefully curated the settings and scenes in which her characters appear. Through a critical and often humorous lens, these images brought attention to the male gaze. Sherman directed, starred in, and photographed each image, subverting the gaze of the male réalisateur and viewer, and emboldening herself, while questioning the notion of representing and performing womanhood. In the 1980s and 90s, she expanded her scale and her subject to experiment with medium and form, photographing mannequins and prosthetics in pornographic shots, or restaging photographs of historical portrait paintings of the 15th through 19th centuries. Her interest in the grotesque in photography and film has both criticized increasingly materialistic and youth obsessed culture, and driven forward avant-garde aesthetics.
In 1995, the Museum of Modern Art bought Untitled Film Stills for $1 million. In 2011 her Untitled #96 sold $3.89 million making it the most expensive photograph ever sold at that time. Sherman’s oeuvre has appeared in exhibitions at major museums for decades, including Whitney and Venice Biennales and in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco.