Cindy Sherman is an American photographic artist. She attended State University College at Buffalo, N.Y., majored in art, but changed her major to photography, and received a bachelor's degree in 1976. The following year she moved to New York City.
In December 1995, The Museum of Modern Art acquired all sixty-nine black-and-white photographs in Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills series. This insured that this landmark body of work was preserved in its entirety in a single public collection. The series has been exhibited as a whole only once before.
She is most known for her series Untitled Film Stills in which she takes on the roles of different female stereotypes.
Sherman began making these pictures in 1977, when she was twenty-three. The first six were an experiment: fan-magazine glimpses into the life (or roles) of an imaginary blonde actress, played by Sherman herself. The photographs look like movie stills or perhaps like publicity pix purporting to catch the blond bombshell in unguarded moments at home.
Other artists had drawn upon popular culture, but Sherman's strategy was new. For her the pop-culture image was not a subject (as it had been for Walker Evans) or raw material (as it had been for Andy Warhol) but a whole artistic vocabulary, ready-made. Her film stills look and function just like the real ones.
Over the short breadth of her career, her work has grown markedly more aggressive in tone, and more overt in its message. Sherman has taken on a larger task: breaking down reality to see if anything remains: to see if there is such a thing as a core identity, or if there is nothing but myth, or what we choose to dress ourselves up to be.
During the 1980s Sherman began to use colour film, to exhibit very large prints, and to concentrate more on lighting and facial expression. Using prosthetic appendages and liberal amounts of makeup, Sherman moved into the realm of the grotesque and the sinister with photographs that featured mutilated bodies and reflected such concerns as eating disorders, insanity, and death. Her work became less ambiguous, focusing perhaps more on the results of society's acceptance of stereotyped roles for women than upon the roles themselves. During the 1990s Sherman returned to ironic commentary upon clichéd female identities, introducing mannequins to some of her photographs.
In 1995, Sherman was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship "Genius Grant," a five-year $500,000 grant to encourage her creative work. In 1997 she directed the dark comedy film "Office Killer" in which a secretary exacts her revenge for corporate downsizing. She followed this in 1999 with an exhibition of disturbing images of savaged dolls and doll parts that extended her interest in juxtaposing violence and artificiality. In 1999 she was named one of the Top 10 Living Artists by ARTnews magazine. Her work has been shown in more than 75 solo exhibitions and as part of over 150 group exhibitions. Sixty-four museums collect her prints.
Over the years her other awards include the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (1993); Wolfgang Hahn Prize (1997); Hasselblad Award (1999); Guild Hall Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual Arts (2005); American Academy of Arts and Sciences Award (2003); National Arts Award (2001); Jewish Museum’s Man Ray Award (2009); and the Roswitha Haftmann Prize (2012).