Ancestor , 1985
Cindy Sherman’s photographs—in which she casts herself in roles ranging from movie star to witch, Italian gentleman to aristocratic matron—exploit their medium’s potential for transformation. In so doing, these images sidestep the genre of self-portraiture by revealing little about the artist. Instead, they point to the commercially produced and widely circulating images that pervade our daily lives, suggesting the power of pictures—fictions that can seem more real than reality itself—to overwhelm authentic identity and take on the status of truths.
Here, Sherman adopts the garb of a biblical patriarch who rests at a campfire beneath a starry desert sky, an evocation of ancestry accomplished with the theatrical verve of a Hollywood film. Even as Ancestor offers a shorthand for cultural patrimony rooted in narratives of the Holy Land, Sherman accentuates its artificial nature through her simple staging and obvious use of prostheses, emphasizing the gap between the historical past and her representation of it.