The queen of the selfie since long before Instagram, now you can follow Cindy Sherman there.
Cindy Sherman has been manipulating her self-portraits to expose how mass media reduces women to stereotypes since the 1970s. Her newly public Instagram account shows that the iconic feminist artist’s work is nowhere near done.
The 67-year-old’s Instagram was started in 2016, but only recently became publicly accessible, reported Artnet. Almost 600 images include what seems to be snaps of her daily life and museum visits. Since May, selfies that have been manipulated in the trademark Sherman style have started appearing. Likely made using Apple Photobooth, according to PetaPixel, it is these images that have everyone asking if this is Sherman’s newest work.
Sherman herself has not yet commented or offered a statement about her newly public Instagram account. Given her artistic track record that has always pushed the boundaries of new mediums, and how Instagram itself embodies so many of the issues her work has been dealing with since the 1970s, Sherman’s entire Instagram account is more than likely a meticulously intentional work of art.
Sherman’s prophetic selfies
“Recalling a long tradition of self-portraiture and theatrical role-playing in art, Sherman utilises the camera and the various tools of the everyday cinema, such as makeup, costumes, and stage scenery, to recreate common illusions, or iconic ‘snapshots’, that signify various concepts of public celebrity, self-confidence, sexual adventure, entertainment, and other socially sanctioned, existential conditions. As though they constituted only a first premise, however, these images promptly begin to unravel in various ways that suggest how self-identity is often an unstable compromise between social dictates and personal intention.”
Out of context, this might read as an uncanny description of celebrity Instagram behaviour, but these ideas have manifest throughout Sherman’s career since the 1970s, according to The Art Story, an NGO working to make modern art ideas more broadly accessible. From recreating film stills showing female archetypes in Hollywood films, art history and magazines in her early career, through her ‘everywoman’ archetypes of the 2000s, and her continued revisiting of these tropes. In 2015, New York-based designer Hyo Hong even made a set of emojis using Sherman’s faces.
Instagram as art platform
If anything, it’s surprising that Sherman took so long to get into Instagram. She is certainly not the first artist to recognise Instagram as a medium, not only as a PR tool. Hans Ulrich Oberist has been using Instagram to archive handwritten notes by artists for some years now, and earlier this year UK art critic Alastair Sook argued that Argentinian artist Amalia Ulman’s spoof selfies are Instagram's first masterpiece.
What is significant for Sherman, is that the Instagram works are the first series in which she is manipulating her own image and identity, showing how the self is constructed through popular media, rather than using herself to deconstruct other identities.