In honor of Cindy Sherman's MoMA retrospective opening this Sunday, we're sharing a few highlights from David Hershkovits' 2008 Guru interview with the groundbreaking artist. "Cindy Sherman" runs through June 11th and spans the photographer's career from the '70s to the present, including her acclaimed "Untitled Film Stills," her celebrity history series and her 2008 portraits based on society women, which she talks about below.
On why she chose to focus on society women for a portrait series:
I liked these older women trying tolook good and dignified and over-the-top. Just the idea of these richladies who pose in ball gowns in their living rooms with their toddlers-- it just looks so ridiculous.
On how she got into character:
The mental state is more important because I really want acharacter to come through. I started to think about some of thecharacters -- how they're older women and if they are successful, maybethey're not really that happy. Maybe they've been divorced, or they'rein an unhappy marriage, but because of the money, they're not going toget out [Laughs]. That's what I was thinking -- that there's somethingmore below the surface that you can't really see.
Above: Cindy Sherman. Untitled #466. 2008. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2011 Cindy Sherman
On the difficulty of photographing herself:
What gets harder is the goal of trying to seem somewhat different.And that was another reason why, when I was doing some of these characters, I wasn't that happy with them, because I thought theyreminded me of other characters I've done. Or I saw too much of myselfin some of them. To me, it's a little scary when I see myself. And it'sespecially scary when I see myself in these older [society] women. After the firstsix I thought, 'This is great, this is so easy -- I have a whole newcategory of women to explore.' It was kind of scary how easily I couldmake myself look so much older. But that was always the case in thework. Not about age, but I realized how easily I could look this way orthat way, and it was kind of scary -- like your life could have beencompletely different if one little thing was different.
On accepting her work's popularity:
It bothered me how popular some of the series were, likethe history portraits. It seemed so easy to do that series for some oddreason, and I felt guilty about that. But then I would go and make thesemore disturbing [works] -- sex picture stuff, rotting food stuff -- tofeel like I could still go back to something that I do more for me, thatI don't really care if people like or not. It's what I want to do. Andthen I can go back to the fun stuff when I use myself, because it iskind of fun, and I know that's what people always want. They're alwayslooking for me in the photograph. And they're always a littledisappointed if they find out that I'm not really in this one.
Photo of Cindy Sherman by Richard Burbridge.