Reflecting Cindy

I have to admit, when I researched Cindy Sherman’s work (and by research I mean quickly flicked through Google search images) I was giving it a bit of a side-eye. Like, really? A grown woman taking selfies of herself in dress up is art? I know I’m terrible. But I’ve changed now I really have. And that’s what I think is great about galleries. It’s a place that functions as a platform to challenge perception and open yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking. It might sound terribly cliché but it really can be an insightful experience.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled. 2000-2002. Photo taken by author.

So I went to the City Gallery prepared! I wasn’t about to let anything get past me! I took notes of lecturers and other experts and funnily enough it helped! Some things that changed my perspective on gallery experiences was taking time to *see* the art, not being afraid to say ‘it looks like a cat and there is pink’, and to reflect on how I engage with and relate to the work.


When it comes to a large scale exhibition – the Cindy Sherman exhibit took over the whole city gallery! – it can be tempting to rush through each piece in order to see it all. But in doing so you are missing out on the full experience. It’s like going to a buffet and only licking each dish – you get an idea of what it is but don’t get the full flavours and joy of eating something so delicious! Now I’m not saying you should spend an hour, let alone 10 minutes, on every artwork – ain’t nobody got time for that! But it does pay to spend a little longer in front on something that,once you get past understanding the representation of what it is, draws you in.

Cindy Sherman, Clowns series. 2003-2004. Photo taken by author.

Not every artwork is gonna tickle your tastebuds (art and food are almost the same thing to me). When it came to Sherman’s work there were some pieces that I looked at like, ‘I get what’s going on but it’s a no from me’ (looking at you Clowns) and I realised that is nothing to be ashamed of. Move on. Find something that you do connect with. What is important is that you give the art enough time to formulate an opinion and consider what it is the artist is trying to express. You don’t have to like it! (so you can go ahead and wipe that sweat off your brow).

In my head I imagine the instant you lay your eyes on an artwork you have to say something profound like, ‘It is a response to the shattering melancholy of lost hope!’ whilst dramatically holding a handkerchief to your brow. I realised, however, that beginning with something like ‘It is a lady with really bad hair and makeup’ is an excellent foundation to begin building a personal response. Sherman’s work of the last decade has been literal representations of a character. So when I thought somewhat foolishly to myself ‘that lady has fake boobs’, it was the opening to ‘does she realise it’s obvious? Why does she have fake boobs in the first place?’ to which I could then *see* that Sherman was reflecting what it means to judge someone, and how people seek others attention and admiration.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled. 2000-2001. Photo taken by author.

Looking at art I sometimes find myself disconnected, often because of the subject. In the case of ‘Head shots’ I’m looking at a bunch of middle aged woman so I’m definitely not feeling any sense of ‘sisterhood’ there. But in slowing down and looking closer you begin to look at different levels and find elements you can connect to. I may not be a desperate housewife but I do know what it feels like to long for and seek appreciation. I have hopes and dreams and I have fears of those dreams never being fulfilled. I can relate to when you think you look bomb but then catch a glimpse of yourself in a shop window like, omg how long has my fly been down? It is then that the work becomes more, something that impresses itself on your mind.

After that experience with the Cindy Sherman show I can safely say I am a gallery expert *sassily flicks hair* JK! I have realised though, that there is so much more to experience in attending art gallery exhibitions. Now that I have a better idea of what to expect I feel I can go in and confidently look at and think about art which sounds ridiculous (like how hard can it be?) but is certainly more challenging than one would think.


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