V.T406

Extreme Self-Portraits

Extreme Self-Portraits

During her 30-year career, New York–based artist Cindy Sherman has taken photographs of women. In those photos she is not only the photographer but also the subject. Cindy Sherman’s career has addressed a variety of issues, from society’s perception of women and their perception of themselves to cultural stereotypes and identity. Cindy Sherman’s art will be the inspiration for this photo assignment.

In teams of two (or by themselves if they prefer), students will set up photos of themselves portraying roles played out in our culture at large, youth culture, and/or your own high school’s culture. Alternatively, students could portray themselves in roles they may take on in 5, 10, or 20 years. How do your students see themselves in the future? This series of 12 quality photos should portray each student in two or more different roles. This will require work outside of class, utilizing clothes, costumes, makeup, and other props that they have at home, or that they borrow or buy from a thrift shop, etc. Students may need to seek out potential setting locations.

Note: Elements of Cindy Sherman’s work have been considered controversial by some. Please preview the Art 21 video and decide for yourself how much of it you wish to show to your students. It is 17 minutes long; the first seven minutes (from 15:40 to 22:45) are enough to give the students an idea of her work and her process. If you wish to show the entire clip, please review it in advance to assure compliance with your school’s policies and community norms.

If you’d rather not use Cindy Sherman’s work, artists from Rembrandt to Van Gogh to Alice Neal to Alex Katz have painted themselves and others and may be used as classroom examples, as well as portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh.

Note about time: Most of this project is done outside of class. Because it is done off-site, three weeks or 21 days are used interchangeably. These are calendar days (including weekends), not school days. Only three class periods (Days 1, 10, and 21) are required for work that students should do in class.

This item has been voluntarily field-tested by Michigan teachers with a non-representative sample of students.


These are analytic rubrics. The column on the left shows the dimension that is being measured in the student’s performance. The levels across the top row indicate the performance level in the dimensions. Occasionally all dimensions and performance levels are exemplified by multiple students in a single recording.

TEACHER SCORING RUBRIC

  • Dimension
  • Creativity

  • Collaboration

    Teacher assessment will be based on responses of student pair to Reflection Question 3. If student worked alone, disregard this section.

  • Craftsmanship

  • Reflection

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • Uses the first idea that comes to mind.
    Unwilling to explore a variety of possibilities.
    Uses others’ ideas instead of his/her own for variety and selection of
    subjects and backgrounds.
    Only one role depicted or assignment incomplete.

    N/A at this time.
  • Develops and refines ideas through limited investigation.
    Doesn’t recognize conventional thinking and work is predictable for
    variety and selection of subjects and
    backgrounds. From two to six roles depicted, but with little variety.

    View Exemplars
    View Exemplars
  • Develops and refines ideas through investigation.
    Recognizes conventional thinking and offers some alternatives for variety and selection of subjects and backgrounds. From two to six roles depicted.

    View Exemplar
  • Develops and refines many ideas through extensive investigation.
    Recognizes conventional thinking and offers many alternatives for variety and selection of subjects and backgrounds. From two to six roles depicted with insight, style, and daring.

    View Exemplars
    View Exemplars
  • You and your partner were not able to work together. You often disagreed. You were seldom able to work out logistical challenges. The technical abilities of your teammate were limited. Your partner took photos that were not to your liking.

    N/A at this time.
  • You and your partner did not work especially well together. Your ideas often conflicted, so it was hard to make decisions. You were able to work out logistic challenges some, but not all, of the time. The technical abilities of your teammate were limited. Your partner took acceptable photos.

    N/A at this time.
  • You and your partner worked well together. Some of your ideas even inspired one another. You were able to work out logistic challenges. The technical abilities of your teammate supported your conceptual ideas. Your partner took good photos.

    N/A at this time.
  • You and your partner worked extremely well together. Your ideas inspired one another. You were able to work out logistical challenges. The technical abilities of your teammate enhanced your conceptual ideas. Your partner took excellent photos.

    N/A at this time.
  • Work is incomplete and/ or shows no evidence of the intentional use of these formal elements in the body of work:
    1. Composition
    2. Contrast
    3. Cropping
    4. Selective focus
    5. Careful attention to telling details.

    N/A at this time.
  • One to two of these formal elements appear to be used intentionally to create a body of work:
    1. Composition
    2. Contrast
    3. Cropping
    4. Selective focus
    5. Careful attention to telling details.

    View Exemplars
    View Exemplars
  • Three to four of these formal elements appear to be used intentionally in a creative body of work:
    1. Composition
    2. Contrast
    3. Cropping
    4. Selective focus
    5. Careful attention to telling details.

    N/A at this time.
  • Excellent use of all five of these formal elements to create an exemplary body of work:
    1. Composition
    2. Contrast
    3. Cropping
    4. Selective focus
    5. Careful attention to telling details.

    View Exemplars
    View Exemplars
  • Student’s written work is incomplete. Student’s ability to reflect on his/her own art-making is limited.

    N/A at this time.
  • Student makes an effort to articulate his/her intention and process with limited success. Some recording of observations and reflections.

    View Exemplar
  • Student is able to articulate his/her intention and process.
    Recording of observations and reflections with personal insight.

    View Exemplar
  • Student is able to articulate in detail his/her intention and process.
    Comprehensive recording of observations and reflections with personal insight.

    View Exemplar

TEACHER SCORING RUBRIC—CURATOR’S COMMENTARY

  • Dimension
  • Compare and Contrast

  • Ideas Supported with Examples

  • Fluent in Communication

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • Student compared three or fewer artworks and was unable to identify any similarities or differences.

    N/A at this time.
  • Student made an effort to compare the three artworks and was able to identify only one or two similarities and differences.

    View Exemplar
  • Student compared the three artworks and was able to identify many similarities and differences.

    View Exemplar
  • Student showed evidence of insightful comparisons of the three artworks, identifying multiple similarities and differences. Student interpreted the meanings of their comparisons, e.g., clothes indicate a certain time period.

    View Exemplar
  • Student did not use any examples in support of his/her views.

    N/A at this time.
  • Student only used a few examples in support of his/her views.

    View Exemplar
  • Student used many examples in support of his/her views.

    View Exemplar
  • Student used a wide variety of examples in support of his/her views. (Examples may include but are not limited to: all portraits are in ¾ view looking to the right, details (clothing, hairstyles, background) show time period and interests, bright vs. neutral color palette, male vs. female subject, etc.)

    View Exemplar
  • Student’s writing communicated little insight about the three artworks. It was neither clear nor well organized and had many mechanical errors.

    N/A at this time.
  • Student presented some information but used little art vocabulary. Writing has lapses in organization and clarity and some mechanical errors.

    View Exemplar
  • Other than a few mechanical errors (spelling, punctuation, sentence structure), student presented information in a well-written and organized way, using some art vocabulary.

    View Exemplar
  • Student presented information in a thorough, clear, well-written and organized way, using art vocabulary.

    View Exemplar
Having trouble viewing videos?

Leave Feedback for this Assessment

What did you like? Did you need to revise anything? How could we make this assessment better?
Our Assessments are written by teachers for you, so your feedback is important to us!

Comments about items may be moderated and/or reposted in the forums or blogs to aid item improvement and teacher learning. By leaving a comment, you agree that we can use your comment without attributing it to you.

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with all of our assessments.

Sign Up Now!