Since the earliest days of photography, people have been portrayed in front of studio backdrops—often an exotic landscape, the garden of a country manor, or an elegant interior—as photographic proof of a desired but fictive life. After her late-1970s series of black-and-white self-portraits that masqueraded as old film stills, Cindy Sherman adopted a similar device—a rear-screen projection—“just to make it seem that I was on location,” she said, “without having to be on location.” In fact, her motivation was more complex. Her repeated placement of a cropped, close-up figure against a luminous but indistinct background is precisely what gives emotional power to the rear-screen projections series. The contrast between Sherman’s flesh-and-blood face and the out-of-focus park scene behind her gives this picture an eerie and unsettling quality, as if viewers are witnessing a pivotal moment in a narrative that they cannot quite make out.

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Cindy Sherman, American, born 1954
Chromogenic print
Image: 16 × 23 1/2 in. (40.6 × 59.7 cm) Sheet: 20 × 23 15/16 in. (50.8 × 60.8 cm)
Credit Line

Gift of William F. Stern

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number

William F. Stern, Houston; given to MFAH, 1981.