In New Work, Cindy Sherman Becomes Women of a Certain Age

Chameleonlike artist Cindy Sherman is back with her first exhibition of new work since 2004. On view through December 23 at New York’s Metro Pictures gallery is a series of color photographs of Sherman in the guise of upper-class ladies of a certain age: here the taftan-clad grand dame wafting through her villa, there a whirl of sparkly accessories and leathery skin in the hotel ballroom. Exploring ideas of beauty, self-image, and aging, Sherman nails an aesthetic that fashion designer Michael Kors has described as “very M.O.B. [mother-of-the-bride],” as shown in the spot-on lavender taffeta tableau at right. Shot against a green screen, the portraits are often an awkward match for their worldly backgrounds, which only heightens the disquieting effect that is a Sherman trademark. How did this new series come about? Sherman explained in a recent interview with Paper magazine editor David Hershkovits:

Well, a friend had been turning me on to some characters on websites. There’s this one called Brenda Dickson—she was a soap opera star who’s sort of infamous now on YouTube, where people mock her website. She has a video on her website which is all about how to look as effortlessly beautiful as she looks. And she doesn’t look at all effortless! She just looks so over-the-top. Originally the posing stuff came from work I did last year for French Vogue. They were meant to look like snapshots at parties. You know, people trying to look so eager to look good for the camera. I liked these older women trying to look good and dignified and over-the-top. Just the idea of these rich ladies who pose in ball gowns in their living rooms with their toddlers—it just looks so ridiculous.

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