The Unbearable Banishment: The Girl of 1,000 Faces

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Girl of 1,000 Faces

Although I've heard her name kicked around the museum circuit for years, by and large I was unfamiliar with Cindy Sherman's work. A big retrospective just opened at MoMA so I ran over on my lunch hour. Wow! is her stuff strange! I liked it, but it isn't something I'll take the girlies to, that's for sure.

The exhibit is a series of portraits. Sherman (supposedly) does her own conceptualization, make-up, prosthetics, lighting, photography and post-production work, which is pretty amazing if you think about it since those are all separate and distinguishable skill sets. I think there's a deeper meaning to her work about the symbolic role of women in society sprinkled with a hint of feminism but, as is usually the case, that stuff eluded me and I had to enjoy the work (or not) based on my purely visceral reactions. Thank God almighty I'm not bogged down with a proper education. It's liberating.

Each gallery is a sampling from the various projects she's done over the years. There's nothing pretty about these portraits. All the characters she portrays are hideous gargoyles with a ramped-up hyper-realism. She depicts a slice of decidedly blue collar America...


...or aimless, angst ridden Long Island youth...



...or wealthy society matrons. The kind who buy her work, made her a multi-millionaire and fund museum wings that house her retrospectives. Perhaps this is the ironic part of the exhibit?


She recreated a series of Renaissance paintings. This was her first foray into depicting men.


And a downright bizarre series of clowns. Lots and lots of clowns!


She is absolutely unrecognizable in all these photos, not just the ones where she's buried under a ton of make-up.


It might be a kick to smoke a big fatty and then walk through this show. You'd either die of fright or hysterical laughter.

* * *

I would like to issue a public thank-you and express a debt of gratitude to Ellie at The Daily Smoke for correctly diagnosing my heel problem in the comments section of two posts ago as plantar fasciitis. I applied the remedies suggested on the Mayo Clinic website and I'm at about 90%. I should be able to run in another week or so. Ellie, come to New York City and I'll buy you a big goblet of red wine.

Where did people go for advice before the internet was invented? I vaguely remember having a life before www. was around, but I don't really recall the specifics. When The Daughters get older, I'll be able to tell them I was there when the internet was invented. I'm sure their response will be, "So what?"

16 Comments:

Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

That woman does an amazing job! The clowns are pretty creepy...

Having had plantar fasciitis for almost 13 years now, in both feet, I know you don't want it to linger. I am glad you're on the mend but please remember, even if it goes away, to be kind to your feet. It is no fun to have it become chronic. Always always wear proper footwear that's in good condition.

Remember.... no hoof, no horse! Don't need Mrs. Wife having to take you out behind the barn to shoot you because you can't walk...

March 6, 2012 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Kono said...

It's always good to have a puff and then go to the art museum... how many times did i trek over to the east side and do that as a kid... now i do it at gallery crawls... but in NYC i'd bring my own, i hear all the weed is dusted...

March 6, 2012 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Ponita; The entire exhibit is an absolute fright fest. Click over to the MoMA site I linked and have a look. It's not for everyone, that's for sure, but not boring, either. I got my stupid foot injury because I was running in old shoes. Serves me right.

Kono: The weed out here is pretty goddamn expensive. Plus, it's so powerful that it's almost of a narcotic quality. At least, that's what I hear.

March 6, 2012 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Cat said...

The other day we were on a five hour road trip and The Girl was on her phone researching her debate topic. She asked what we did before the internet. I do remember calling the public library with questions and the research librarian would call me back with an answer.

March 6, 2012 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger savannah said...

i'm not in the cindy sherman camp, sugar. i'm more an imogen cunningham, annie leibovitz, diane arbus kinda gal, for what it's worth. xoxoxox

(i lost 2 toenails to ill-fitting shoes. i HOPE i'll have suitable nails for summer flip flop wearing pedicures and far out nail polish!)

March 6, 2012 at 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Dolce said...

I'm running screaming. And I'm stone cold sober. Eek.

March 6, 2012 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Cat: These damn kids don't know how easy they've got it. It's up to our generation to make them feel inadequate.

Sav: I'm with you. I enjoyed it but there's no way in hell I'd hang any of that stuff in my house. And according to the placards, many of these pieces are on loan from private collections! Ick.

Dolce: Do you feel persecuted? I think most of the women depicted are persecuted and I was wondering if anyone can relate.

March 6, 2012 at 3:11 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

looking through the MoMA site, i can see at least 1,000 faces. the stuff from the mid-late 70's is cool. you can keep the joisey girls and DEFINITELY the clowns...

March 6, 2012 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger nursemyra said...

Oh I LOVE Cindy Sherman UB. And I'm surprised you hadn't already heard of her. The Film Stills series and the History Portraits are fabulous. I even own a copy of her film Office Killer

March 7, 2012 at 4:47 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

I'd happily wander through a gallery of her stuff. Some of the facial expressions are mesmerising.
I have a foot story: in later years my big toes had a tendency to rise rather than lie flat and whilst going downhill in climbing boots I lost my big toe nails.
My chiropordist said the nails had come away from the nail bed and that was that. However through extra care and no hard toe caps they have magically got better.
I recommend Boot's foot cream with mint, lavender and marshmallow. Delicious!

March 7, 2012 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

daisy: I looked over the retrospective and thought that this is a conceit that I could have/should have come up with. I can't draw a line but if I had been a bit more clever, I might have work hanging in a museum.

nurse: I don't understand it either. I didn't intentionally avoid her and it's not like she's some green up-and-comer. It's just so hard to take it all in. Wish you could see this show. It's pretty expansive. Click on the link, if you haven't already.

Pat: Thank you for the medical advice. All I was trying to do was stay fit by running and I ended up harming myself. It's the oldest story in the book.

March 7, 2012 at 7:45 AM  
Blogger Eryl said...

I haven't seen a huge amount of her work, but have seen some and always found it oddly compelling.

I expect the girls' responses will be more like: "There was a time before the internet?!"

March 8, 2012 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger mapstew said...

Feck, I gotta start taking more photies of my costume changes! :¬)

No feet story.
But I do have club thumbs, they look like big toes. I should be in a freak show! :¬)

March 8, 2012 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Eryl: That's very cryptic of you. Oddly compelling can go either way. I find my life to be oddly compelling.

Map: I just saw a play with F. Murray Abraham. He took his shoes off and his toes were a complete mess! It's all I could concentrate on. I forgot about the show.

March 8, 2012 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger looby said...

There's something primevally scary about clowns, even Sherman's. But the rest of the stuff is great, excellent social commentary, and clever because I can't work out what stance she is taking towards her subjects.

March 9, 2012 at 5:26 AM  
Blogger Ellie said...

Woooooho! I am so happy I helped with the diagnosis! I will put m.d. after my name on my blog. X

March 11, 2012 at 1:42 AM  

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