I have just seen the Cindy Sherman Retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, London. Click the link for a quick video of the works from the exhibition.

“This major new retrospective explores the development of Sherman’s work from the mid-1970s to the present day, and features around 150 works from international public and private collections as well as new work never before displayed in a public gallery.

Focusing on the artist’s manipulation of her own appearance and her deployment of material derived from a range of cultural sources, including film, advertising and fashion, the show explores the tension between façade and identity.”

In some ways I feel like I have always known and known about the work of Cindy Sherman (”the master of disguise”).

Cindy Sherman and…Theory of Knowledge?

I taught a photography class for four years in the 1990 at Taipei American School, Taiwan. In 1992 she used prosthetic limbs and mannequins to create her “Sex Pictures” series, which provoked a lot of discussion about the role and purpose of art, the idea of cultural boundaries, the power of art to shock, and the line between art and pornography. (This obviously also ties into some Theory of Knowledge questions – what is the nature and purpose of art? Can or should it justifiably cross the line into more provocative areas? Etc)

What is the relevance of Cindy Sherman to you as a DP visual arts student?

For a start, she is using photography in a creative, thoughtful, individual and admittedly sometimes provocative manner. A lot of examiners repeatedly complain that all too often students do very little with any submitted photographs, and I repeatedly post blogs suggesting that submitting a photo that you happened take while on holiday (for example) is not really showing evidence of conceptual qualities or technical competence.

The Process Portfolio rewards critical investigation of the work of other artists particularly if it is authentically integrated into your own studio practices. For example, you could deconstruct Sherman’s photographs, analyse how the work has been created, interpret how meaning was created and demonstrate how Sherman’s practice can inform you own practice.

This “deconstruction” can be experimental and practical in nature: for example, examine the techniques and purpose of Sherman’s photographs, experiment with such techniques and reflect upon them.

Are Sherman’s photographs self-portraits? If not, what are they?

If you wanted to investigate and learn from the work of Cindy Sherman is practical terms, what would you do?

If you want to make a comment about some aspect of your culture using photography and exploring the Cindy Sherman approach, what would that look like? What would you do?

Another useful thing about Sherman is that she is famous!

All too often students discover the work of an obscure artist on a social media platform and then struggle to find any critical evaluations or analysis of this work. There is a lot of evaluation and critical studies of the works of Cindy Sherman, so finding what art writers and other artists say about her should be relatively simple.

If you like and are inspired by her work, her photos could also form the basis of part of your Comparative Study and/or the critical investigation part of the Process Portfolio.