For more than 30 years, Cindy Sherman’s images have captured metamorphosis after metamorphosis as she’s repeatedly transformed the same model: herself. Throughout her career she’s photographed herself as everything from a vixen to a victim, a centerfold to a corpse, using costumes, wigs and makeup to transform herself. Her work is sometimes disturbing, always provocative and often explores how women in particular are portrayed in society. Earlier this year her Untitled #96, which depicted Sherman as a lovelorn woman clutching a personal ad while lying on a kitchen floor, sold for a record $3.89 million—the highest price tag ever attached to a single photograph.
Thankfully, Sherman hasn’t reined in her signature style for the cosmetic world. While most of the major beauty houses have continued on the staid path of beauty advertising, pairing fashion photographers with well-known models or celebrities for smoldering photographs, cosmetic giant M.A.C. picked Sherman as the nearly unrecognizable face of their fall line. In the three images of the campaign, Sherman uses the line to completely alter her look appearing as a garish heiress, a doll-like ingénue and a full-on clown. She showcases makeup as a tool for transformation, not only for hiding flaws and spots but as something that can also create personas.
It’s not Sherman’s first foray into commerce—she’s done campaigns for Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs, but it’s a marked departure for the cosmetics world. After all, it’s not likely that people will be describing any of Sherman’s looks as pretty.
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