Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cindy Sherman Clowned

Photograph of Cindy Sherman by Martin Schoeller. I retouched it to resemble her clown pictures.

Here's the original by Martin Schoeller.

Here's another Cindy Sherman picture redone by me. Note how much my version retains of Schoeller's original.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cindy Sherman Refurbished

Untitled #465. 2008 Photo: © 2012 Cindy Sherman/courtesy 
the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

There was a time I was sick of Cindy Sherman, but no more. I love her new work—pictures of socialites of a certain age, women who very well might be New York City East-siders and art collectors. They play off our moment’s deep engagement with appearance, and they make fun of everything in sight. Nearly sophomoric parodies on the one hand—against all odds—they are deeply moving on the other. These women desperately want to look the way they used to—younger, firmer, better dressed, prettier, more fashionable. (They probably look as wealthy as ever.) But they can’t pull it off. They look ghastly. Though Sherman plays these characters, she says they are not about her, that they are not self-portraits. Yet these women are relatively close to her in class, status, and wealth. Sherman’s formal dexterity with makeup, wigs, prostheses, sets and backgrounds, props—all the artifice of Hollywood and Madison Avenue—is stunning and, just by itself, a feat. She is so crafty that she almost parodies parody itself. Sherman both mocks Hollywood slickness, by going broad and obvious, much like theatrical makeup, and she also mocks the society lady's desperately clueless efforts to slap on the spackle and turn back time. And the new work, with what seems to be occasionally increased empathy for its subjects, somehow makes all her other work look great, too. It's a miracle that I’ve been puzzling over. I have no answer.

Untitled #465. 2008 Photo: © 2012 Cindy Sherman/courtesy 
the artist and Metro Pictures, New York. 
Retouching courtesy, if that's the word for it, me.

As an exercise trying to understand, I retouched my favorite Sherman picture. I simply removed everything that was “wrong” or “unsightly” and "improved" the overall tone--what a fashion retoucher might do.  Here’s an itemized list. Top to bottom, I

• raised the hairline and removed the widow’s peak
• added light to the eyes and removed the red from the eye rims
• smoothed the wrinkles around the cheek and rest of face and removed makeup, esp. blush
• desharpened the nose
• fixed the lip line (was bigger than mouth) and removed the cracks in the lips
• softened the chin line and took out the neck wrinkles
• fixed the anatomy of front shoulder and softened the shoulder blades. Also removed the sunburn from the shoulders
• softened the general tone of the image to look a more harmonious, somber, and old master-y and corrected the perspective of the background

This way, it's easy to compare.