Visual culture is all around us. Visual art is one aspect of visual culture that I found interesting. I have challenged my perceptions of the world and questioned how women are defined by society. I will be looking at the work of Cindy Sherman.
To have an in-depth analysis of Sherman’s images, we need to consider the time we spend viewing. (Kiplan 1) states to appreciate a work of art we need to take time to look at the finer details. Viewing art for 30 seconds, we only apricate the work at surface level. As an audience, we don’t take the time to create questions and think about why the artist has created these images. I believe it’s important to take the time to analyse the art, to be able to question why they created the artwork and the artist’s ideas. During this time, we allow ourselves to develop our perceptions of the world. The exact time to ensure you understand varies for different people, we all come from diverse backgrounds and experiences in life. It’s subjective for each person.
For example, the image of Sherman’s (Untitled Film Still #2) communicates the idea of feminism and subverting society’s ideals around women. She challenges perceptions on how women are valued in society. Sherman portrays these fictitious characters of old Hollywood actresses. She has done this to create a collective medium, to ensure people can relate to these images and get an understanding. In Nicholas Mirzoeff book, How to See the World, he states something similar. (Mirzoeff 21), believes that the internet is the world’s first collective medium. With this concept of collective communication, Sherman has used characterisation to create her collective medium. This concept redefines the idea that art is only for a selected few. She has neutralised the perspective and makes the work relatable to all types of people. I personally relate to these iconic figures that are depicted in her work. We grow up aspiring to be these women that we look up to. Sherman is illustrating in her image how destructive this can be. The mirror in this photograph symbolises reflection/vanity. Sherman is communicating that women are only valued by their appearance/ reflection. In society’s eyes that’s all you are worth. That we are objects to the gaze. We need to take a step back and reflect about society’s expectations. We don’t need to conform to these ideas to feel a sense of worth. This challenging of my perception on how others value me and the expectations on what women must do to feel accepted. It made me question this need to please society to be accepted, and how destructive that is.
Sherman, Cindy. Untitled Film Stills #2. 1997-1980. Black and white Photograph.
Sherman labels each image ” untitled”. This is to make the viewer think about her images for themselves, without any preconceived ideas about the piece. Sherman simply alludes to these ideas about feminism in her work, however she does not tell you. It challenges you to create independent thought. That goes against everything, Clark talks about in “Language and Meaning.” (Clark 20, that effective communication is essential to articulate in words a response to visual culture.) People will never react to art in the same way. We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. However, I believe that the beauty in the works will resonate with different people and challenge people’s perceptions in different ways. Visual culture is subjective to the viewer. It communicates in a vast variety of ways.