Finding Inspiration - What Cindy Sherman Taught Me

One of the first modern artists and photographers that I was aware of when I was a kid was Cindy Sherman. It was the film stills. I don't remember when or where I first saw them. Don't forget, I grew up outside of a mid-size prairie city. It was about as suburban as you can get.
    
I didn't know anyone who was into art. I didn't have anyone in my life to introduce me to art or artists. I just remember always being aware of Cindy Sherman. I must have seen a photograph of her work in the newspaper or in a magazine. 
      
   
“I didn’t want to make what looked like art,” Cindy Sherman says about her earliest works, explaining that “film has always kind of been more influential to me than the art world.” 
   
When I took a photo class from Justin Hackworth at the ALT Summit Channel he encouraged all of us to see photographs in person. Yes, a book is fine and we can see soooo much online but see them face to face. When I heard that MOMA was doing a retrospective of Cindy Sherman I decided that I HAD to see it. To see them in person. 
   
I'm still thinking about it.
   
You go to the top floor of MOMA. Up the escalators. Up and up. Turn right, walk through a small gift shop area and then swing around left. Then stop and gasp. Before you are five more than lifesize portraits of Cindy Sherman on the wall. Not framed and hung. On.the.wall. About 20 feet tall. And that is just the beginning.
   
   
It's an exceptional show. Not too much but instead, if anything, too little. I would have enjoyed seeing more, much more, of her earliest works. There are a few - a short film she made in art school and a photo of her playing dress up at age 11. They easily demonstrate her precocious abilities and vision. There is an excerpt of her art school era film in the video near the end of the post.
   
(As an aside, last year's de Kooning exhibit at MOMA went on and on and on - it needed to edited down.)
  
   
She uses photoshop now. And green screen technology. I don't have a problem with that - Ansel Adams dodged and burned in the darkroom. 
   
"People think because it's photography it's not worth as much, and because it's a woman artist, you're still not getting as much - there's still definitely that happening. I'm still really competitive when it comes to, I guess, the male painters and male artists. I still think that's really unfair."


"The still must tease with the promise of a story the viewer of it itches to be told."
   
Look at the photo below. Then look at the giant toes at the bottom right. Her historical photos all have some quirk.
   
   
"We're all products of what we want to project to the world. Even people who don't spend any time, or think they don't, on preparing themselves for the world out there - I think that ultimately they have for their whole lives groomed themselves to be a certain way, to present a face to the world."
   
You know that I am curious about where we all create - well, here is where Cindy creates: 
   
   
Here is an excerpt from a PBS show about transformations that included Cindy Sherman talking about her art.
   

Watch Transformation on PBS. See more from ART:21.

   
And here's a cartoon from the May 14, 2012 - you know that you're part of the zeitgeist when you are in the New Yorker:
   
 
So what did Cindy Sherman teach me? How am I different having seen her work face to face in front of me? I think to be true to my own vision. To do what moves me. To do what inspires me. To not play to the crowd. To achieve excellence in my photos and my writing. 
   
There's still that Ira Glass gap between my vision and my execution but perhaps that will always be the case - will any of us ever be able to create and make what we dream?