“New Year, New Me” is the biggest cliche of all but thats only because we’re all attracted to the concept of reinvention, a clean slate on which to build a new, better version of yourself. It’s just not that easy to actually pull off. I gave the concept of reinvention a lot of thought before the idea for this post hit me like a freight train. Cindy Sherman has, quite literally, turned in the idea of reinvention into an art form.
If you don’t know her she’s an American photographer whose body of work has changed the face of contemporary art, photography and feminism forever. A few years ago one of her photographs sold at auction for almost $4 million, making it at the time the most expensive photograph ever sold. Her modus operandi is a simple one – virtually all of her works are self-portraits, cleverly staged and styled she portrays an endless array of female stereotypes spanning visual cultures ranging from Renaissance paintings to Film Noir.
Whilst I’ve always loved her work there was a turning point for me when I discovered how she came to be the artist she is now. As legend has it she was, in her youth, incredibly shy. Apparently she’d go to various parties in increasingly complex and divergent outfits, using fashion and make up as a kind of mask that she could hide behind. In a way isn’t that the attraction of fashion for a lot of people? Despite her increasingly elaborate get-up, someone eventually began recognising her. Impressed by this unique talent they suggested that she should find a way to record her outfits and looks and thus an artist was born.
She’s taken it far beyond the realms of mere surface aesthetics since then but hasn’t needed to abandon the self-portrait to do it. We can all learn a bit about reinvention from Cindy Sherman – whether we use it as a tool to help us combat our own personal shortcomings or as a weapon to dismantle perceptions and stereotypes, change is nothing to be scared of.