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Feminist Art Review of Cindy Sherman Self-Portrait - Essay Example

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Self-Portrait: Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #53 Introduction The nature of art has examined a wide variety of modes of expression. One of the most prominent modes of expression since the Renaissance has been portraiture. While during its 16th and 17th century connotations portraiture predominantly functioned in lieu of photography, later centuries witnessed an increased emphasis on the philosophical and experimental potentials of the medium…
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Feminist Art Review of Cindy Sherman Self-Portrait
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"Feminist Art Review of Cindy Sherman Self-Portrait"

Download file to see previous pages Perhaps the most seminal artist operating in this cultural milieu is Cindy Sherman. Sherman’s art presents a multitude of perspectives on the self, interrogating identity, experience, and femininity in the postmodern world. This essay examines Sherman’s self-portrait Untitled Film Still 53 arguing that it presents a comprehensive response to mainstream perspectives on identity and actively resists the male gaze. Analysis While Cindy Sherman’s work almost exclusively explores conceptual portraits, her most notable collection is the Untitled Film Stills, 1977–1980. Within the context of this collection critics have divided the portraits into a variety of themes, still it’s clear that are a number of concerns that underline all these modes of representation. One of the most emblematic portraits of this collection is Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #53. From a strictly literal perspective, this work is a photographic portrait of Sherman wearing a blonde wig. Her eyes are slanted indifferently to the left. She is standing in front of a concrete wall that is blurred from view by the brightness of a light and photographic development techniques. While this portraiture presentation is ostensibly simplistic in meaning, further analysis reveals a number of deeper meanings. In deconstructing traditional representations of identity Sherman’s Untitled Film Still #53 resorts to one of the most pervasive constructors of identity – the cinema. Indeed, it’s been noted that in the, “early work by Cindy Sherman…she reconstructs the codes of the representation of femininity in cinema” (Jones, pg. 90). Within the context of this portrait one witnesses the co-optation of many elements of film noir cinema. In these regards, the low-key lighting and blurred focus are much in-line with this genre. While the photograph represents a recreation of this 1940s and 1950s aesthetic, the nature of it being a second-order representation is such that it leads individuals to question the nature of these early and mid-20th century forms of gender and identity construction. It’s noted that, “The intellectual woman looks and analyzes, and in usurping the gaze she poses a threat to an entire system of representation” (Jones, pg. 67). Such an understanding reveals perhaps the central meaning behind this specific portrait and Sherman’s larger body of work, namely that the artist has implemented conceptual portraits in a post-modern paradigm to interrogate previously held notions of truth and reality. Another prominent investigation of identity in this portrait is through interrogation of the male gaze. Feminist theory contains a strong emphasis on the representation of women in television and film, with Laura Mulvey’s the gaze a prominent area of consideration. Within Sherman’s portrait it’s clear she is exploring this feminist concern in a variety of ways. One prominent understanding, as is characteristic of Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, is that, “Sherman has posed herself as embodied object, photographically frozen within gendered positions of vulnerability” (Jones, pg. 323). When one examines this within the outward representation of the photographic image, one of the major considerations is the mid-20th century costume and body language. Sherman’ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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She soon discarded painting in favor of photography when she realized that she “could just use a camera and put [her] time into an idea instead” (Cindy Sherman.com). This disinterest in medium is reflected in the various works about and reviews of her: Danto says that “photography is not her medium.
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