Life in America: The Reagan Years, A Webography
Untitled, Cindy Sherman, 1975
Cindy Sherman, 2005

Cindy Sherman: A Very Short Introduction

By turning the camera on herself, Cindy Sherman has built a name as one of the most respected photographers of the late twentieth century. Although, the majority of her photographs are pictures of her, however, these photographs are most definitely not self-portraits. Rather, Sherman uses herself as a vehicle for commentary on a variety of issues of the modern world: the role of the woman, the role of the artist and many more. It is through these ambiguous and eclectic photographs that Sherman has developed a distinct signature style. Through a number of different series of works, Sherman has raised challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society, the media and the nature of the creation of art.

Sherman's life began in 1954, in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City. Her family having moved shortly after her birth, Sherman grew up as the youngest of five children in the town of Huntington, Long Island. Unlike some budding artists, Sherman was not particularly involved in the arts as a young person. Sherman's parents were not involved in the arts; her father made a living as an engineer and her mother worked as a reading teacher. Born relatively late in her parents' lives, Sherman's father was retired by the time she was in fifth grade. Sherman has said that, ""It wasn't until college that I had any concept of what was going on in the art world. My idea of being an artist as a kid was a courtroom artist or one of those boardwalk artists who do caricatures. My parents had a book of, like, the one hundred one beautiful paintings, which included Dali and Picasso among the most recent artists." Despite her parents lack of artistic interest, they were supportive of her choice to enter art school after finishing high school, though, according to Sherman, her mother did caution her to "take a few teaching courses just in case." Thus, Sherman's exploration of art began at the State University College at Buffalo.

Sherman's career at Buffalo began much differently then it ended. As a freshman, Sherman set out to study painting until one day, when she realized that she had enough. Frustrated with the limitations of painting and feeling like she had done all that she could, she gave it up. Sherman has said that she felt that " . . .there was nothing more to say [through painting]. I was meticulously copying other art and then I realized I could just use a camera and put my time into an idea instead." And this is explicitly what she did. In retrospect, Sherman has expressed that she never could have succeeded as a painter, stating that she is unable to react to painting in anything more than a visceral way. Lacking the critical connection needing to proceed with painting, Sherman turned to photography, which she studied for the remainder of her time at Buffalo. During this time, she met a person who was to become very important in her life: fellow artist Robert Longo. Together with Longo and fellow student Charles Clough, Sherman formed Hallwalls, an independent artists' space where she and fellow artists exhibited.

After Sherman's 1976 graduation, she decided to move to New York City to embark upon her career in art. Taking a loft on Fulton Street in lower Manhattan, Sherman began taking photographs of herself. These photographs would come to be known as the Untitled Film Stills , perhaps the most well known and recognizable work of Sherman's career thus far. In these photographs, begun in 1977, Sherman places herself in the roles of B-movie actresses. Her photographs show her dressed up in wigs, hats, dresses, clothes unlike her own, playing the roles of characters. While many may mistake these photographs for self-portraits, these photographs only play with elements of self-portraiture and are really something quite different. In each of these photographs, Sherman plays a type -- not an actual person, but a self-fabricated fictional one. There is the archetypal housewife, the prostitute, the woman in distress, the woman in tears, the dancer, the actress, and the malleable, chameleon-like Sherman plays all of these characters.

For a work of art to be considered a portrait, the artist must have intent to portray a specific, actual person. This can be communicated through such techniques as naming a specific person in the title of the work or creating an image in which the physical likeness leads to an emotional individuality unique to a specific person. While these criteria are not the only ways of connoting a portrait, they are just two examples of how Sherman carefully communicates to the viewer that these works are not meant to depict Cindy Sherman the person. By titling each of the photographs "Untitled", as well as numbering them, Sherman depersonalizes the images.

There are also very few clues as to Sherman's personality in the photographs - each one is so unique and ambiguous that the viewer is left with more confusion than clarity over Sherman's true nature. Sherman completed the project three years later, in 1980, when she "ran out of clichés" with which to work. This series gave Sherman much publicity and critical acclaim; she had her first solo show at the nonprofit space, the Kitchen, in New York City. In 1980 Sherman also created a series of what she called "Rear-Screen Projections" in which, similarly to the Film Stills, Sherman dressed up and paraded against a projected slide background.

In 1981 Sherman was commissioned by the respected magazine Artforum to do a "centerfold" for one of their upcoming issues. Sherman proceeded to submit a series of images with a cohesive aesthetic look: the camera was placed above Sherman, who was often crouched on the ground or made to look like she was in a state of reverie. This series, as well as an additional series of Sherman in a pink robe, was rejected by Artforum 's editor, Ingrid Sischy, who claimed that these photographs "might be misunderstood."

Sherman went on to change her style almost entirely in what are often referred to as the Disasters and Fairy Tales series. For the first time in her public career, Sherman was not the model in all of the images. Shot from 1985 until 1989, these images are far more grotesque than Sherman's earlier work. Often intentionally dressing to look scary and deformed, Sherman sets herself in strange, indefinable settings which often feature oddly colored lighting in shades of blue, green and red. At times, Sherman employs dolls parts or prosthetic body parts to substitute for her own and many a scene is strewn with vomit, mold and other vile substances. Sherman's intent is to explore the disgusting, yet these are things that she admittedly can find beauty in.

Sherman's second most known body of work came some time after the Film Stills had already been well received, around 1988-1990. In the History Portraits Sherman again uses herself as model, though this time she casts herself in roles from archetypally famous paintings. While very few specific paintings are actually referenced, one still feels a familiarity of form between Sherman's work and works by great masters. Using prosthetic body parts to augment her own body, Sherman recreates great pieces of art and thus manipulates her role as a contemporary artist working in the twentieth-century. Sherman lived abroad during this time in her life, and even though museums would appear to be the source of inspiration for this series, she is not a fan of museums: "Even when I was doing those history pictures, I was living in Rome but never went to the churches and museums there. I worked out of books, with reproductions. It's an aspect of photograph I appreciate, conceptually: the idea that images can be reproduced and seen anytime, anywhere, by anyone."

In 1992 Sherman embarked on a series of photographs now referred to as "Sex Pictures." For the first time, Sherman is entirely absent from these photographs. Instead, she again uses dolls and prosthetic body parts, this time posed in highly sexual poses. Prosthetic genitalia - both male and female - are used often and photographed in extreme close-up. Photographed exclusively in color, these photographs are meant to shock. Sherman continued to work on these photographs for some time and continued to experiment with the use of dolls and other replacements for what had previously been herself.

Sherman's life and work has been populated by more than just conceptual photography. She has been married to video artist Michel Auder for over 16 years and has found time in her busy career to add work in motion pictures. In 1997, Sherman's directorial debut, Office Killer, starring Jeanne Tripplehorn, was released in theatres. A self-proclaimed lover of horror films, Sherman draws on the characteristics of this genre as well as the visual motifs established as a still photographer. Sherman also made an appearance in front of the camera, making a cameo playing herself in John Waters' 1998 comedy Pecker .

Because Sherman achieved international success at a relatively young age, her work has had a considerable maturation in value over the past decade. In 1999 the average selling price for one of her photographs was $20,000 to $50,000, a hefty sum for a female photographer. Even more ground-breaking was a 1999 Christie's auction in which one of the photographs from Film Stills sold for a reported $190,000. This bid was perhaps inspired by the Museum of Modern Art's lead: in 1996, they purchased a complete set from Film Stills for one million dollars. These prices are indicative of Sherman's huge level of success, both critically and financially. Sherman's popularity continues to grow around the world, as she has exhibited countries including Germany, Japan, France.

Recently, Sherman has returned to using herself as model. At a recent show at her New York gallery, Metro Pictures, Sherman displayed a series of portrait-like images of herself in the guise of women from California. These women are again simply types - The Personal Trainer, The Ex-Realtor, The Divorcee, etc. Sherman further manipulates the notion of portraiture through the use of conventional portrait signs including the setting of the figure against a neutral background. Unlike some of her early photographs, these are more straightforward images of created characters, not narrative fragments. Sherman continues these projects in New York City, where she currently lives and works.

SourceBiography.  n.d.   Web.  6 Jan. 2011.

Transformations (2002)

Doll Clothes (1975)

Web Resources about Cindy Sherman

Bruce Museum

Score: 18

Summary: The Bruce Museum, celebrating its 100-year anniversary, is currently hosting Cindy Sherman’s most recent work in the exhibition Cindy Sherman: Works from Friends of the Bruce Museum, which has been on display since January 29, 2011 and will stay until April 23, 2011. According to its mission statement, the Bruce Museum “promotes the understanding and appreciation of Art and Science to enrich the lives of all people.” Along with the information of its numerous other exhibitions, the Bruce Museum dedicates a page to the Cindy Sherman exhibition, complete with some pictures of her work, an explanation of the exhibition, and a brief biography of Sherman and her artwork, particularly as it relates to the exhibition. The page also provides a link to other programs related to the Cindy Sherman exhibition, one of which includes  a film series of Great Women Photographers.  

Evaluation: Accredited by the American Association of Museums since 1998, the Bruce Museum  has been voted the best museum in Fairfield County of Connecticut for the past five years. The Bruce Museum displays the copyright 2011 at the bottom of every page, letting viewers know that the information is kept up-to-date. All photographs contain detailed labels artist, title, year, dimensions, and other information. The website is very easy to navigate, and all information regarding the artworks, artists, exhibitions, and credibility of the source is clearly stated and easy to find. The Bruce Museum states on its website that it is a “regionally based, world-class institution highlighting art, science, and natural history in more than a dozen changing exhibitions annually.”

Gagosian Gallery

Score: 18

Summary: Larry Gagosian, listed as #1 in Art Review’s “Power 100” for the top 100 most important people in the contemporary art world, compiles each of his nine galleries conveniently in one website that provides viewers with a variety of information about current, past, and upcoming art exhibitions in the Gagosian Galleries. At the top of the home page, viewers can easily navigate through information on these art exhibitions, contact information for each of the Gagosian Galleries (which have locations in New York, California, London, Paris, Rome, Geneva, Hong Kong, and Athens), profiles on over one hundred current and past featured artists, as well as art news and shopping opportunities. Each artist’s profile contains a brief biography; news regarding the artist; past, current, and upcoming exhibitions of the artist at the Gagosian Galleries; and publications or reviews about the artist and his or her work. The purpose of this site is to provide its audience with precise and abundant information on the Gagosian Gallery exhibitions as well as the artists featured in them throughout the past, present, and future.   

Evaluation: Although this site does not feature the entirety of Cindy Sherman’s artwork and only that which has been exhibited in the Gagosian Galleries, the information provided in this website is valuable and credible. Larry Gagosian, owner of Gagosian Galleries, has established a credible reputation in the contemporary art world, having been listed within the top ten of Art Review’s “Power 100” from 2004 to 2010 (according to Wikipedia and Art Review’s “Power 100” online). His website displaying each of the exhibitions and galleries remains current: The updates to the site have occurred within the last year, and the site constantly keeps up to date with current and upcoming exhibitions. Photographs are thoroughly labeled, and links to sources or sites containing further information are provided and easy to locate.


Score: 17

Summary: According to the site’s “About Us” section, “artnet is the place to buy, sell and research fine art online. artnet Galleries is the largest network of its kind, with over 2,200 galleries in over 250 cities worldwide, more than 166,000 artworks by over 39,000 artists from around the globe.” On the homepage, enter Cindy Sherman in the search bar, scroll down to Artists/Manufacturers, and click on Cindy Sherman (American, 1954). Here viewers can easily browse through the categories the page offers: artworks for sale, galleries, auction houses, price database, market reports, calendar of art fairs and exhibitions, artnet Magazine, monographs, and a section with a biography and links to more information. Exhibitions and other information are arranged by year and contain a list of all of Cindy Sherman’s events for that year. This easy-to-read site is useful because its information is organized in lists and categories so that it is easy to find whatever you are looking for.

Evaluation: artnet is a registered trademark of Artnet Worldwide Corporation and dedicates an entire page to contact information, complete with telephone numbers, business hours, and addresses for headquarters and regional offices. The copyright at the bottom of every page is current (2011), which guarantees that the information on the site is up-to-date. All photographs and samples of artwork are labeled by artist, title, and year. The purpose of the site is to offer factual information about prices of artwork, biographical information of artists, and dates of different art exhibitions. The biographical section is not in-depth, and descriptions of the exhibitions are not available. But overall, the site seems current and trustworthy and offers a variety of artwork samples, prices, exhibition information, and much more.


Score: 16

Summary: Once you enter Cindy Sherman, or any of the other over 280,000 artists on the site, into the search bar on the homepage, you will be able to view a profile of the artist that contains a biography, solo shows listed by year, group shows listed by year, a dealer directory, public collections, and catalogs. There is also an artworks tab, an auctions tab, and an analysis tab (which viewers cannot access unless they are members of the site). The auctions tab provides a partial list of prices of certain pieces by the artist, with a link to the full list at the bottom. The artworks tab contains a small sample of the work of the artist. Along the side of the artist’s profile, viewers can peruse the artist’s ranking graph, attributes, as well as rankings of the artist’s exhibitions: the most in which country, the most shown with certain artists, and the most held at which institutions.

Evaluation: Created in 2001, “Artfacts.Net developed a sophisticated artist database through its collaboration with international art fairs, galleries, museums and artists.” The contact information provides telephone numbers, addresses to offices, and email addresses. Although the site contains a disclaimer, it states clearly that its “goal is to keep this information timely and accurate.” According to the site, the last update made to Cindy Sherman’s profile was March 7, 2011, which means that the facts provided are definitely current. The samples of artwork provided are labeled, and sources are cited. The purpose of the site is to offer factual information that is current, and the listings provided are thorough and relevant.

Metro Pictures

Score: 15

Summary: The Metro Pictures Gallery, located in New York, provides information on current, upcoming, and past art exhibitions; samples of artist’s artwork; gallery information; and news regarding artists and their work. Those who view the website can look at enlarged photographs of each artist’s artwork and read details of each photo. Currently, over twenty artists are featured on the site, and those who visit the site can view samples of each of the artist’s work. The news section provides information on exhibitions and arts events, including dates and locations as well as links to find further information about each exhibit, event, or artist.        

Evaluation: The Metro Pictures Gallery’s site provides complete contact information and the location of the gallery, which helps establish its credibility as a professional business. Sources are cited and links are provided to find further information on the art presented on the site. Although there is not an official date of creation or last update listed on the page, the upcoming exhibitions are as recent as 2011, and the current exhibits contain dates for the year 2010, which suggests that recent updates were made to keep information relevant and up-to-date. This is a great site to view a variety of samples of different artists’s artwork and a possible resource to find links to further reading or information.

PBS: Art21

Score: 15

Summary: The established organization of PBS is currently featuring 86 artists in a series that will “demonstrate the breadth of artistic practice in the United States today.” On the home page, scroll down to the “artists & episodes” section and click on the link for the 86 featured artists (listed alphabetically) to find Cindy Sherman’s biography. This page provides a brief biography of Sherman’s life, artwork, and accomplishments to date, and the page also allows viewers to watch episodes that Sherman has appeared in. If you look at the bottom of the page, you will notice links to galleries that feature Cindy Sherman as well as a link to Art21’s blog, where viewers can read about Cindy Sherman and other artist’s current work and news.

Evaluation: The Art21 artist feature is a reliable source because it is through the well-known PBS association, and according to the home page, Art21, Inc. is copyrighted (2001-2010), which shows that the site contains current information and has been updated within the last year. Additional biographic and bibliographic information can be found through the links this website provides, and photographs are clearly labeled. Although some of the information is posted through the Art21 blog, meaning the content and sources may be irrelevant or questionable, the credibility of PBS and the established copyright that Art21 provides is certainly trustworthy, and it is clear that the information provided is current, fairly researched, and easy to navigate. The links that the site provides offer additional information that is also useful.

Bright Hub

Score: 15

Summary: From the homepage, type Cindy Sherman in the search bar in the top right-hand corner, and click on the link to “A Brief Biography of Cindy Sherman and Photographs taken by Cindy Sherman.” The following page provides a biography of Cindy Sherman’s life and career, in addition to her different works: film stills, centerfolds, history portraits, sex pictures, clowns, and Metro Pictures. The page also contains a brief description of Sherman’s photography technique. At the bottom of the article and along the right side of the page, related links are posted, including articles about famous photographers and female photographers.

Evaluation: At the top of the page, the author and editor are both named, although no credentials are provided. However, the Bright Hub website offers contact information, complete with address and emails. The Bright Hub Inc., with copyright 2011, states in its “About Bright Hub” section, “Bright Hub is an online community of experts and life-long enthusiasts who help visitors make better decisions, easily solve problems, and learn more about their interests with wide-ranging and highly informative articles, blogs and forums.” The article was last edited on November 4, 2010, which proves that the information is current. If you scroll over photographs or click on them, the labels of the pictures contain the artist name, year, and photograph title. This is a good source for quick, brief information about Cindy Sherman.


Score: 13

Summary: is a place where artists can buy and sell artwork as well as view other galleries and artists’s studios. Along the left side of the home page, green tabs provide links to an art forum, art jobs, artist opportunities, art news, global art events calendar, art reviews, and much more. While it seems to offer a wealth of information, sometimes the site can be difficult to navigate because there is so much placed on the same page at once. Near the bottom of the homepage, biographies of artists such as Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman are available. These profiles of the artists contain birth and death dates, links to other websites and past auctions, a biography, and samples of the artist’s work.

Evaluation: According to the homepage, is the #1 Worldwide Online Art Resource. The copyright date at the bottom of every page reads 2009. Some links are provided, though not always clearly, and if you click on the pictures in the artist profile’s, the photographs are labeled in detail. The purpose of the site is mostly to offer guidance in selling or promoting artwork, but it also provides information on galleries and lists events on a calendar on the homepage. However, it is not the most current site, and the source does not seem to be well-known. This site is definitely useful for the biographical information it provides as well as the information in the green tabs.


Score: 11

Summary: From the homepage, viewers can enter Cindy Sherman into the search bar that says “enter artist name” to find a page containing links to various sources of information about Cindy Sherman’s Works Online. The site is organized by the following categories: commercial galleries, museums and public art galleries worldwide, art market, pictures from image archives, miscellaneous sites, and articles and reference sites. Viewers can also look inside books about Cindy Sherman or containing her work. Each link takes viewers directly to another website with various information about Cindy Sherman and/or her artwork. This is a good resource for finding potential sites for research, but it should be used with caution.  

Evaluation: The “About Us” page displays a number of recognitions the site has received over the years, including Britannica’s Internet Guide Award. Although there is no indication of when the site was last updated, the copyright is within the last year (2010). The author of the site provides contact information as well; however, the author’s credibility is questionable. The information does include citations of the sources, however, which adds to the credibility, and because the page is a list of Cindy Sherman’s Works Online, the site is very useful for leading to further research and sources.

The Arts: Fine Art, Contemporary Art and Music

Score: 11

Summary: Type Cindy Sherman into the search bar, and click on the first biography on the results list to find Cindy Sherman’s biography. This site provides a detailed biography that specifically focuses on Sherman as an artists and her work rather than her entire life. The biography describes Sherman’s different series of art and other accomplishments throughout her career; it also explains her artistic style and how she has impacted and commented on society. Furthermore, the page offers links to related articles, including an article about the “50 Women Artists You Should Know” and another article featuring a list of the “Top 100 Distinguished Women Photographers.” The bottom of the page contains a bibliography and more places where viewers can find further information about Cindy Sherman.

Evaluation: This site guarantees that “content on this website is from high-quality, licensed material originally published in print form. You can always be sure you’re reading unbiased, factual, and accurate information.” Sponsored by Net Industries and its Licensors, the site’s copyright is from 2011 and has all rights reserved, which gives the site some credibility. The sources are given credit in the bibliography, and links to other articles are provided; however, no contact information is provided, and the authority of the site is not really proven credible. This site could be useful for biographical information on Sherman as an artist and her career, as is the website cited in the introduction on this webography.

Content created by Courtney Froehlich.