A pop quiz on Cindy Sherman

As a student I missed a test question about one of my favorite artists, and it led me on a weird journey.

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Untitled (Self-Portrait with Sun Tan), 2003, by Cindy Sherman
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Untitled #92, 1981, by Cindy Sherman
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Untitled #92, 1981, by Cindy Sherman
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Untitled, 2004, by Cindy Sherman
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Construction #1 (after Cindy Sherman), by Anna Weltner, 2017
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Construction #2 (after Cindy Sherman), by Anna Weltner, 2017
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Construction #3 (after Cindy Sherman), by Anna Weltner, 2017
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Construction #4 (after Cindy Sherman), by Anna Weltner, 2017
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Untitled, 1976, by Cindy Sherman
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Venus at a Mirror, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1614–1615
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Goitre (film still), by Anna Weltner, 2020

The Stereotype and Cindy Sherman

When American artist Cindy Sherman made her series “Untitled Film Stills,” a collection of 69 untitled photographs shot between 1977 and 1980, she (perhaps accidentally) struck a cultural nerve. The black-and-white photographs, each starring the artist herself in various guises, showed invented scenes from non-existent movies. The result was a kind of uncanny valley of visual reference: The images were enigmatic and mysterious, yet they quoted so well from the language of cinema that they struck the viewer with a faint yet persistent feeling of recognition (“Hang on a minute, I know I’ve seen that movie!). In truth, the images were constructed entirely from Sherman’s imagination — yet they were influenced so thoroughly by the cinematic mode as to fit neatly in the brain beside lingering memory-images of B movies, Hitchcockian mysteries, and French New Wave films.

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Untitled Film Still #58, by Cindy Sherman
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Untitled #408, by Cindy Sherman, 2002

Non-fiction filmmaker, writer, and editor.

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