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Exploring “Untitled Film Stills”, Cindy Sherman’s Feminine Parody of a 1950’s Heroine

Welcome to the 59th insertion of DEMUR®, an analytical series highlighting the intricacies of the artistic world and the minutiae lying within. In this episode we look through the lens’ of Cindy Sherman, an American photographer who captured female ambiguity as both the artist, and the subject.

Cindy Sherman, born 1954 in New Jersey, New York, is a polarizing photographer known for her socially critical lens. Using her camera to storytell, the artist often portrays herself as the subject in her vast series, possessing both the visionary and technical persona. Capturing many of the images without aid, Sherman is able to convey messages with symbolism and subtleties, using thrifted material to embody a desired identity.

Embarking on her career between 1977-1980, Cindy Sherman developed what is now known as “Untitled Film Stills” - a collection of 69 monochromatic images featuring herself as the protagonist. Remaining as her most praised series to date, the images encapsulate the 1950’s pervasive narrative of femininity through the eyes of a woman nearly three decades later.

Illustrating the prevalent stereotypes with a constant sense of movement and outcasted rebellion, Sherman stages herself in a variety of settings, egos and poses. Characters like the housewife, office girl and librarian are featured, always looking outside of the frame in a distant regard. Each still is familiar, yet mocking in an aspect of traditionality. She mimics the role of a “female” but questions the expectations for one, toying with the idea of an acceptable woman in today’s beauty standards.

Sherman represents not only the popularized version of a heroine, but also the possibilities one may choose to pursue. By personifying all of these identities, she represents the ability to become each, proving the capability to reach outside of one’s origin and loosen the grips of staganancy.

Regardless of the lacking congruence found aesthetically, “Untitled Film Stills” thematic devices invoke a journey of self-discovery and parody of the borders defining femininity. With a lens, Sherman encourages viewers to explore and question society’s constructs.

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