Cindy Sherman creates portraits of herself through the use of photography. She displays herself in settings that are stereotypically “womanly duties.” Sherman explores and plays on the media dominated civilasion in particular the male gaze. Sherman creates multiple characters and settings that are drawn from popular cultures. In particular television series and old films mainly from the 1950’s when the male and female gender roles where apparent in the stereotypical American household setting. Sherman’s approach to this is a play on the idea that identity lies in appearance and that creation is impossible without the use of prototypes and stereotypes.
The piece “untitiled film still #3” displays Sherman in a stereotypically female dominated environment the kitchen. The piece itself displays a focus on four main objects, a bottle of washing up liquid, a pan, a mug and an item that appears to be a baby bottle. These objects in particular resemble the role of women in accordance to men. The expectations of women are to serve men linking to the idea of the mug and the idea that women belong in a kitchen to make the lives of men “comfortable and presentable.” The baby bottle links to the idea of a woman being taught how to nurture children from a young age and the idea that maternal formations are something that should come to women naturally and is something that is expected from their existence.
However, Sherman in the piece is displayed in such a way that confronts and welcomes the male gaze. She is positioned in a way where her stomach is pushed in with the help of her hand whilst her left arm slightly pushes her left breast making them appear more prominent. The intention of this is to act as a catalyst paired with the seductive over look of her shoulder to display the idea that this is all tactically done for the presence of someone else. Through the use of setting the gender of the other person is obviously male. However, the slanted eye gaze creates a mood of tension which is apparent in the scene This raises a question for the viewer of, as viewer are we disturbing the scene by peering in, are we creating a tension or are we designed to peer in as an attempt to diffuse the tension.
The piece as a whole raises my own personal question of whether I am complying to the gaze that she forces us to confront each time we view the image, are we designed as a society to be conditioned to a male gaze that we naturally can not stop our intital thoughts of objectifying shermans character. On the other hand does she intend to give the viewer space through the subtle scene to challenge it. There is no denying that the piece as a whole is a display of feminism. As viewers we are not the focal point of the woman’s gaze maybe relating to the stereotypical place of a woman in a home environment. Is this the factor that makes us uneasy or the fact that we place ourselves in the scene rather than outside it due to the nature of the photograph being a film still rather than just an ordinary photograph.