QUESTIONS: Cindy Sherman

The following questions can be used to spark conversation before, during, and after viewing the artist's film segment. They were compiled from our Educators' Guides and Screening Toolkits. We strongly encourage active viewing strategies that involve audiences in discussion in order to anticipate and set-up the ideas in the film, clarify content, or further the ideas while watching, and gives viewers the opportunity to process and re-consider their ideas after watching. Additional resources and strategies for teaching with films and working with contemporary art can be found in Teach.

"Untitled (#93)," 1981. Color photograph, 24 x 48 inches. Edition of 10. © Cindy Sherman. Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.

Before Viewing
What do portrait photographers create, for whom, and for what occasions?

How do makeup, accessories, clothing, and other props affect identity? How do they affect the way we present ourselves to the world? How can these things shape or create an alter ego, personality, or identity?

SEGMENT: Cindy Sherman in "Transformation"

While Viewing
How would you describe the characters that Sherman creates? Select one portrait and note the visual clues that Sherman has included in the image. What do they tell you about the character she is presenting? Who is this person? Where is she? Imagine what might have happened to this character in the moments before and after the photograph was taken.

Sherman says that the film world has always been more influential for her than the art world. Describe the images that reflect her interest in cinema, and explain why they do.

"Doll Clothes," 1975. Production stills. 16 mm film transfer to DVD, 2:22 min. Edition of 10. © Cindy Sherman. Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.

After Viewing
Compare Sherman's photographs to portraits from other art-historical periods and other cultures; describe their similarities and differences. Discuss the contexts, intentions, and subjects in other forms of portraiture. How do they relate to or diverge from Sherman's work?

Discuss the term artistic license. What is it? How might this term apply to the choices that Sherman makes in her work?

"Untitled Film Still (#7)," 1978. Black and white photograph, 10 x 8 inches. Edition of 10. © Cindy Sherman. Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.

Cindy Sherman discusses growing up and experimenting with makeup: "So, I think I would play in my room and see what makeup could do. Sometimes I'd become a character." What strategies do artists employ to transform a material, an idea, or themselves within their work, and to what effect? How do individuals fashion a character? How might an overall image inspire certain actions or behaviors? Do outward appearances affect identity, or does identity affect the choices we make about how we present ourselves?

"Untitled (#305)," 1994. Color photograph, 49 3/4 x 73 1/2 inches (framed). Edition of 6. © Cindy Sherman. Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.