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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© Cindy Sherman, courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures
American, born 1954
Untitled Film Still (#52)
Gelatin silver print

Image: 6 1/2 x 9 7/16 inches
Sheet: 8 x 9 15/16 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of the Karen and Eric Pulaski Philanthropic Fund of the Houston Jewish Community Foundation

Arts of North America

Cindy Sherman has built her career on examining the role of celebrity and fame in American culture, and her photographs create a lively artistic discourse about self-performance photography. She stars in all her photographs, and in her series Untitled Film Stills, she explores the roles women play in the movies. Here, Sherman buries her head in a pillow while the light catches her blond wig and shiny negligee. Resembling a scene from a B movie, the picture invites viewers to invent a story about it.
By using herself as a model, Sherman makes photographs that deconstruct popular forms of celebrity representation, including film stills. "I like the idea that different people can see different things in the same image, even if that's not what I would want them to see," she says. This series, which she began in 1977, tampers with the ways popular images simultaneously define and mask true identity. In the photographs she assumes the persona of a fictional character in a nonexistent film. She insinuates plot and adopts fabricated identities through props, costumes, and poses. Once the scene has been fully staged, Sherman photographs herself using a hidden remote-shutter release. The resulting image looks much like a traditional movie still or publicity photo, but in reality questions whether it is acceptable for a portrait just to have instantaneous appeal, or whether it must offer true psychological or emotional revelations about the subject.

To view specific works by Sherman in the collection, contact the museum's Works on Paper Study Center for an appointment.