Cindy Sherman and the Art of Impersonation

This Saturday the much-noted Museum of Modern Art retrospective of photographer Cindy Sherman’s work will make it’s West Coast debut at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The show, says New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, reveals “an artist with an urgent, singularly personal vision, who for the past 35 years has consistently turned photography against itself.”

Where the medium typically involves a photographer’s direct observation of the world, Sherman usually points the camera at herself as she takes a variety of guises. “Aided by ever-shifting arrays of costumes, wigs, makeup techniques, accessories, props and at times masks and prosthetic body parts,” writes Smith, “Ms. Sherman has aggressively role-played and stage-directed her way through, and in many ways laid waste to, a lexicon of mostly female stereotypes.”

The role-playing is apparently infectious, because when NPR’s Ira Glass and a friend visited the exhibit before it closed in New York, they met a woman claiming to be Sherman. Unsure whether she was the real thing or an impersonator, Glass decided to telephone Sherman. You can listen to her response at This American Life.

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