Contemporary Female Artists: Cindy Sherman and Lorna Simpson

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Contemporary female artists: Cindy Sherman and Lorna Simpson

Living in contemporary world, there are some issues that we have in the daily life such as postmodernism, post structuralism, feminism or post colonialism. Today, there are various contemporary artists who expose these contemporary issues. What is mostly concerned in contemporary artist is "postmodernity". The term “post-modernity” can be identified in many different ways that refers to the cultural style of movement in art, architecture, and literature (The New Crown Dictionary). According to Art History Professor Douglas Crimp, in his book, The Reading of the Photographic Activity of Postmodernism, “Postmodernism is about art’s dispersal, its plurality” (91). Crimp was referring to what he called “plurality of copies” occurring through overuse of identical or familiar images displayed in popular media such as TV, magazines, or advertisements. These identical or familiar images used in a mass society are called “simulacra”, identified as “an image or representation of something or someone that is made to looks like something or someone else” used often in postmodern condition. “Pure simulacra” refer to “authentic copies without the original” (Bronfen 15-21). For example, these images below in figure 1 seem familiar to each other and seem to represent a traditionally classy look; they establish pure simulacra in images. It is because these women appear in these photographs are not imitating anyone; they are influenced by overuse of simulacra images through media. Crimp suggests in post-modern condition that nothing is authentic anymore. Especially those who grew up in a mass society of contemporary culture have been strongly influenced; their self-image a reflection of the images and identities created by media.

Figure. 14. Natalie Portman BAZAR/ 2006

4. Natalie Portman BAZAR/ 2006

3. Horst P. Horst
American VOGUE / Sept 15, 1949

3. Horst P. Horst
American VOGUE / Sept 15, 1949

2. Shotaro Akiyama /1960
2. Shotaro Akiyama /1960
1. Hunt’s Tomato Catsup by William Helburn/ 1955
1. Hunt’s Tomato Catsup by William Helburn/ 1955

Cindy Sherman, “one of the most widely discussed contemporary American artists (Bronfen13)”, grew up in postmodern condition have strongly influenced by mass media. Throughout her artwork, Sherman expresses the mechanism of media that creates and influences the idealized and perfection of the women. Sherman’s work questions feminism and identity as she questions “What am I? (qtd in Bronfen 13)” to herself. Lorna Simpson is another contemporary artist who has lived in the postmodern condition as well. She was the first African-American woman to represent the United States in the Venice Biennale and to have a solo exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (Barrett, p.180). Simpson also faces similar issues with Sherman, the gender ideal, identity, and stereotypes. However, Simpson’s work focuses mainly on African American models, which gives main approach to racism and sexism in the contemporary world for colored women. In this essay, I am going to compare and contrast these two contemporary female artists, Sherman and Simpson, mostly giving a focus on racism. By explaining postmodernity, I would like to examine the common issues that contemporary women have beyond their race differences through their art works. Also I would like to examine the difference of two artists by explaining "the male gaze" and the case of the "double consciousness" which will lead to the racism now in the contemporary world. Cindy Sherman’s photography from Untitled Still Films represents pure simulacra of the feminine ideal. In post-modern condition, mass society uses simulacra to establish the accepted image of femininity through films and images of celebrities. Influence of media and advertising image of producing homogeneous images of the ideal feminine look extended women’s identity. According to French Philosopher Michel...
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