cindy sherman 2016
Untitled (2016)

One of the most celebrated stars in the photography firmament, Cindy Sherman is back with her first series of images in five years – and she’s playing a few old-time Hollywood “stars” herself.

In an exhibit of 16 life-sized color portraits that opened May 5 at the Metro Pictures gallery in New York City, Sherman (who, as her followers know, utilizes her own lights and cameras, as well as costumes and make-up), conjures the ghosts of such cinematic legends as Swanson and Garbo in later years. “I relate so much to these women,” she told the New York Times in April. “They look like they’ve been through a lot, and they’re survivors. And you can see some of the pain in there, but they’re looking forward and moving on.”

cindy sherman untitled film stills
Untitled Film Still #21 (1978)

Sherman, whose works have commanded as much as $6 million at auction, shot to fame in the early 1980s with her now legendary Untitled Film Stills, a set of 69 black-and-white photographs, one of which is shown left, depicting herself as an imaginary actress in a series of cliché moments that symbolized notions of homogenized femininity. Iconoclastic and trailblazing, the Film Stills launched a career that in a way comes full circle with the Stills now on view in New York.

In other words, the fresh-faced ingénue has morphed into middle-age amidst a culture obsessed with youth. Sherman, now 62, also told the Times that, “I, as an older woman, am struggling with the idea of being an older woman.” She says that the new photos are “the most sincere things that I’ve done — that aren’t full of irony, or caricature, or cartooniness — since the Film Stills.”

Next month, the new Broad Museum in Los Angeles will launch its first special exhibition with a lifetime retrospective of Sherman’s work, which the artist has perfectly titled Imitation of Life. The name comes from a 1959 Technicolor melodrama by director Douglas Sirk, whom Sherman has cited as an influence. It’s said that the wardrobe for the movie’s star, another Hollywood glam queen, Lana Turner, cost in the neighborhood of a million dollars at the time.

Something any one of Sherman’s memorable leading ladies would definitely appreciate.

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