In 1975, in her third year of college, Cindy Sherman created Untitled #479, the piece she still regards as her first serious work of art: 23 stills that, shot by shot, track one character’s gradual transformation from androgynous mystery to glamorous, beauty-spotted, cigarette-wielding vamp.
In a single class assignment, Sherman announced and conveyed the themes that would preoccupy a lifetime behind and in front of the camera. In the four decades since, she has played starlets and harlots, centrefold models and housewives, fairytale characters and fashion victims. She has masqueraded as a Madonna, as Marilyn Monroe and a creature that author Karl Ove Knausgaard christened “the Pig-Human”.
Toasting Sherman at a gala at the Hammer Museum in 2012, Steve Martin said: “On Halloween, Cindy Sherman goes as herself.”
John Waters has called her a “female female impersonator”.
It’s shocking then, in its way, to see Sherman, 62, undisguised — looking purposefully nondescript in a sensible blouse and pants. Or maybe part of the point of Sherman’s work, as has been suggested, is that a woman is always in disguise.
“I’m dressed up for this,” Sherman says, smiling. “Normally I’d really be a slob.”
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