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.
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