'Sherman's (self)portraits are uncanny and alive': Helen McCrorie, Harry Maberly and Damian Cifelli on the influence of Cindy Sherman
- Brian Donaldson
- 8 July 2019
This article is from 2019
As a rare retrospective on New Jersey-born photographer and filmmaker Cindy Sherman arrives in Edinburgh, we ask some EAF participants what her art means to them
Early on, Cindy Sherman found a way of working which not only felt right and real, but has guided her output across the best part of 50 years. Without the means to pay for models, make-up artists or a wardrobe consultant, Sherman chose to simply do it all herself. Those financial constraints have long since lifted, but the artist chose to carry on with her solo endeavours, admitting that any time she used other people in her shots or films, things never worked out the way she wanted them to.
Gaining instant critical acclaim in the mid-70s with her early self-portraits re-imagined as film stills where she would often be reacting to something happening just out of shot (often evoking paranoia, anxiety or fear), international recognition was not far behind. Rather than repeat herself, the work soon became almost gruesome as she made herself up as grotesque clowns or stylized corpses, featuring fake limbs or plastic breasts, and surrounded by rotting food or fake vomit. Sherman was setting out to challenge an art world which had fully embraced her, daring it to confront her new emboldened vision: 'let's see them put this over the dining room', as she would muse later.
As she exhibits photographs from that early Untitled series for a rare Scottish visit, we hear from other Edinburgh Art Festival participants about their personal reactions to the revolutionary work of Cindy Sherman and how it has informed their own art …
Cindy Sherman's approach is very different to my own, but we share an interest in the performativity of gender. While Sherman restages iconic imagery from Western culture in an attempt to draw attention to the construction of the subject, I am interested in using my camera to explore and reflect on human behaviour.
My new film, showing at Collective, centres on a child-led outdoor playgroup that meets in the grounds of a former military camp in Scotland. In this work I explore the way families adopt a site for imaginative play and experiential learning, using the lens to focus on narratives that are often marginalised in patriarchal society. I am drawn to Sherman's reflexive approach in her film-still series from 1979-80, in which female stereotypes and narratives that play out in popular cinema are called into question.
Helen McCrorie: If play is neither inside nor outside, where is it?, Collective, Edinburgh, 13 Jul–6 Oct, Tue–Sun, 10am–5pm, free.