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essay1 - 1 Cindy Sherman was one of the most influential...

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Cindy Sherman was one of the most influential feminist artists of the postmodernist time period. The achievement that started her career were her black and white “Untitled Film Stills”, which were shot between 1977 and 1980. 1 By using the hypotext of famous actresses from the 1950’s, her hypertext took on a persona slightly contradictory of their original meaning. 2 Because Sherman claimed her original intention of the “Untitled Film Stills” was not to challenge the conventional concept of the female, most of the interpretation of Sherman’s works has come about due to the time period she lived in and the transpiring of her subconscious. 3 In these photographs, she made fun of the fashion industry, 4 while subsequently challenged the notion of the male gaze upon a woman and use of the mirror in western art, allowed women to identify with her desire for perfection while simultaneously making it unattainable, disputed a woman’s place in society, and successfully duplicated the feeling of voyeurism without sexuality. A major staple in western art has always been the objectifying of women. Women were always seen as being the object, while the male photographer or artist was the subject. 5 Women were there for the male gaze. 6 By examining the woman’s gaze, one can infer that she was looking straight at her male observer or slyly averting her eyes but still pointing her body in his direction. 7 While this argument was usually associated with the female nude, all women subjects can be interpreted in this context. Since the outbreak of second-wave feminism in the 1960’s, women began challenging the 1 Avgikos, Jan., “Cindy Sherman: burning down the House. 2 Mauer, Barry J. “The epistemology of Cindy Sherman: a research method for media and cultural studies." 3 Roberts, John. Art Has No History, pg. 259. 4 Roberts, John. Art Has No History, pg. 259. 5 Berger, John. Ways of Seeing, pg. 47. 6 Berger, John. Ways of Seeing, pg. 47. 7 Berger, John. Ways of Seeing, pg. 55-56. 1
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objectification of women in art. While first-wave feminism focused on suffrage, second- wave feminism focused on gaining women’s rights and eliminating discrimination. The art world and the introduction of postmodernism allowed many women artists to “take back” their sexuality. By obscuring or distorting the stereotypical view of the woman, the feminist movement attempted to not only change the prior view of women in art, but also replace its original connotation. Cindy Sherman was a critic of the fashion industry and how ridiculous she believed it was. 8 By taking the hypotext of numerous fashion icons of the 1950’s, she was able to put the fashion she was wearing into stereotypical situations. Women in her photographs were generally cleaning, drinking, lounging, or in common feminine situations. Sherman claimed her main intention of the “Untitled Film Stills” was to be critical of the fashion industry; 9 however, art critics usually found more than a critical analysis of fashion in her work. While Sherman may have intentionally assessed the
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