At a costume party, we know what to expect. People are free to take on a new persona; people are not who they seem. Hiding behind a mask is all in good fun.
Not so with Cindy Sherman’s huge costume party of a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art (on view through June 17, 2012). We know Sherman herself is behind the mask; she is the subject of all 170 photographs and appears as a different person in each one.
Sherman’s costumes often mimic nature: freckles, scars, tattoos, hair, wrinkles, pregnancy. We don’t usually expect those sorts of attributes to be fake.
Sherman makes us wonder: When we encounter a stranger, is what we see what we get? Can we tell from outward appearances that a person is trustworthy or kind? We have to figure that out on our own, as Sherman’s work reminds us. We have to look more deeply and rely upon gut instinct.
The image above, “Untitled #140,” is part of the Nasher Museum’s permanent collection and was recently on view. The pig disguise makes sense in the context of the thorough MoMA exhibition, which features the artist as clown, Renaissance explorer, pregnant woman, grandmother, bombshell, school marm and many more.
More from MoMA’s website: “To create her photographs, she assumes multiple roles of photographer, model, makeup artist, hairdresser, stylist and wardrobe mistress. With an arsenal of wigs, costumes, makeup, prosthetics and props, Sherman has deftly altered her physique and surroundings to create a myriad of intriguing tableaus and characters, from screen siren to clown to aging socialite. Bringing together more than 170 photographs, this retrospective survey traces the artist’s career from the mid 1970s to the present.”
IMAGE: Cindy Sherman, “Untitled #140,” 1985. Color coupler print, 71 15/16 x 48 1/16 inches (182.7 x 122.1 cm). Edition 6 of 6. Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, USA. Museum Purchase. 1992.9.1. © Cindy Sherman.