The career of Jenny Holzer, the artist who became famous in the 1970s and 80s through her public installations of phrases like “ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE” and “PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT,” has made her into an ideal Tweeter. By the same token, the career of Cindy Sherman, the artist who became famous in the 1970s and 80s through her inventive not-exactly-self-portraits — pictures of herself elaborately remade as a variety of other people, including other famous people, in a variety of time periods — has made her into an ideal Instagrammer.
But though Sherman had been using Instagram for quite some time, most of the public had no idea she had any presence there at all until just this week. “The account, which mysteriously switched from private to public in recent months, is a mix of personal photos alongside Sherman’s ever-famous manipulated images of herself,” reports Artnet’s Caroline Elbaor.
“What we see here is somewhat of a departure from the artist’s traditional model: the frame is tighter and closer to her face, in what is clear use of a phone’s front-facing camera. Plus, the subject matter is decidedly intimate in comparison to her usual work — the latest posts document a stay in the hospital. She may even be having fun with filters.”
She apparently started having fun with them a few months ago, from one May post whose photo she describes as “Selfie! No filter, hahaha” — but in which she does seem to have made use of certain effects to give the image a few of the suite of uncanny qualities in which she specializes. Though not a member of the generations the world most closely associates with avid selfie-taking, Sherman brings a uniquely rich experience with the form, or forms like it. Her “method of turning the lens onto herself is uncannily appropriate to our times,” writes Elbaor,” in which the stage-managed selfie has become so ubiquitous that it’s now fodder for exhibitions and often cited as an art form in itself.”
Sherman’s Instagram self-portraiture, in contrast to the often (but not always) glamorous productions that hung on the walls of her shows before, has entered fascinating new realms of strangeness and even grotesquerie. Using the image-modification tools so many of us might previously assumed were used only by teenage girls desperate to erase their imagined flaws, Sherman twists and bends her own features into what look like living cartoon characters. “A bit scary,” one commenter wrote of Sherman’s recent hospital-bed selfie (taken while recovering from a fall from a horse), “but I can’t look away.” Many of the artist’s thousands and thousands of new and captivated Instagram followers are surely reacting the same way. Check out Sherman’s Instagram feed here.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.