Happy 69th Birthday Cindy Sherman

Today is the 69th birthday of the photographer Cindy Sherman. The world is a better place because she is in it.

NAME: Cindy Sherman
OCCUPATION: Photographer, Director
BIRTH DATE: January 19, 1954
EDUCATION: State University of New York at Buffalo
PLACE OF BIRTH: Glen Ridge, New Jersey

BEST KNOWN FOR: American photographer Cindy Sherman is known for her elaborately “disguised” self-portraits that focus on social role-playing and sexual stereotypes.

Sherman grew up in Huntington, New York on Long Island. She was educated at Buffalo State College, enrolling in the basic studio courses – drawing, painting and photography. Sherman initially failed the required photography class (due to difficulties with the subject’s technical side), and decided to focus on her major of painting. Later, however, Sherman studied with a photography instructor (Barbara Jo Revelle) who inspired her to ‘just take pictures’. Sherman decided she found the immediacy of photography more appealing than trying to paint perfect copies of things, and switched majors.

Sherman works in series, typically photographing herself in a range of costumes. For example, in her landmark 69 photograph series, the Complete Untitled Film Stills, (1977-1980) Sherman appeared as B-movie, foreign film and film noir style actresses. Sherman’s most recent series, dated 2003, features her as clowns. Although Sherman does not consider her work feminist, many of her photo-series, like the 1981 “Centerfolds,” call attention to the stereotyping of women in films, television and magazines.

In response to cuts to NEA funding and attempts to censor photographers Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, in 1989 Sherman produced the Sex series. These photographs featured pieced-together medical dummies in flagrante delicto and sex positions. Like much of Sherman’s work, many critics find the series both disturbing and funny. Many art critics consider Sherman to be not only the most successful female photographer of the modern era, but one of the most successful artists of either genders in the late twentieth century with as much influence on younger artists as did Andy Warhol in his era.

Sherman has also worked as a film director; her first film was Office Killer in 1997, starring Jeanne Tripplehorn, Molly Ringwald and Carol Kane. She played a cameo role in John Waters’ film, Pecker.

In 1995, Sherman was the recipient of one of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowships, popularly known as the “Genius Awards.” This fellowship grants $500,000 over five years, no strings attached, to important scholars in a wide range of fields, to encourage their future creative work.

In 2006, Sherman created a series of fashion advertisements for designer Marc Jacobs. The advertisements themselves were photographed by photographer Jurgen Teller and released as a monograph on April the 4th by Rizzoli.

Sherman has been referenced by the electroclash artists Chicks on Speed in the track “Spoken by Stephanie from Marseille, Yes I Do” from the 2000 K Records album The Re-Releases of the Un-Releases. The song refers to Sherman through the lyrics, “…got more faces than Cindy Sherman.” Sherman was also the topic of the song “Cindy of a Thousand Lives”, from Billy Bragg’s 1991 album “Don’t Try This at Home”.

She’s also the subject of The Shermans’ song, “Cindy Sherman”. A documentary, “Guest of Cindy Sherman” is currently in the works about the travails of artist/videographer Paul H-O and his relationship with the great artist (to air on the Sundance Channel in 2008). The feature documentary is directed by H-O and Tom Donahue.

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