Recently, while making plans for a trip to L.A., flashes of stereotypical La-La Land images raced through my head. Hollywood starlets fighting off paparazzi, thespian wannabes sleeping their way to the top, bitching, backstabbing, ballbreaking, diets that cut out just about every food group, and plastic surgery aplenty.
The work of one particular photographer also flashed into my head – that of Cindy Sherman.
Renowned for her mastery of capturing subjects on camera who typify the superficial and the super-narcissistic, Sherman’s works expand on the cult of celebrity, juxtaposing ambition with emotional fragility: a batch of rich bitches from the west coast; plenty more plucked from Madison Avenue, New York.
Experimenting with prosthetics, costume, makeup and digital photography to embellish and manipulate images, Sherman’s work acts as both a driver of our modern fascination with ‘the perfect image’ and a result of this vanity. That said, the evident flaws of her subjects end up being the focus point of the portraits: a sprayed-on face-tan gone wrong, lips that have been injected with too much collagen, and so on.
An exhibition of Sherman’s works is currently on display at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in South Brisbane, focusing on large-scale photographs that were created since 2000 through to 2016. Some of the images are so large, in fact, that seeing every nook and cranny of Sherman’s aching-for-a-closeup personalities can often be confronting rather than appealing. Then again, seeing the flaws up close lends the portraits a certain charm.
More than 50 large-scale works have been amassed, drawing from public and private collections, and including a five-metre-tall mural that depicts a cast of eclectic, larger-than-life urban characters.
The subjects themselves ought to be happy. They did want to make it ‘big’, after all… Antonino Tati
‘Cindy Sherman’ is on at the Gallery of Modern Art, Stanley Place, South Brisbane until October 3, 2016.