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Walking the galleries of “Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life” is like passing through a freak show back alley — a whorehouse of horrors — with smeared lipstick and ill-fitting negligees in harsh light and acid colors. It is not surprising that some of Hollywood’s most prominent leading women came out to see the big show. Standing in front of the final gallery of Sherman’s most recent photographs mimicking female stars of 1920s silent film, Patricia Arquette could see the whole spectrum of humanity on the wall: “They are all kinds of interesting people — people you see at parties or pass by on the road, people you see at community meetings or at some fancy place.”
The star of Boyhood and TV drama Medium was there with her boyfriend Eric White, and the two spoke with The Hollywood Reporter and the guest curator for the exhibition, Philipp Kaiser.
Asked how Sherman’s work seemed to fit so well here in Los Angeles, Arquette had the following thoughts: “Well, I agree. Her use of makeup. Cinema. And also all the different sorts of personalities we all hide behind and who we project ourselves to be. I’m trying to make art talk, but really I just like the way it looks.
“But there are all these different phases in the work — she’s exploring the visual objectification or the concept of the perfect woman or the way a woman should look in different cultures,” the actress continued. “And as a woman exploring what am I as a woman, what am I supposed to be as a woman, and what fits in as a woman in that particular time in her life. There are so many interesting things underneath. Even though it is photography and two-dimensional, it is also very complicated and emotional, I think.”
WORK OF ART: Demi Moore attends the opening of the “Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life” exhibit. (Photo: Courtesy of Broad Museum)
Sherman’s career as a fine art photographer has been an extended dramatic exercise in self-portraiture where the artist eschews vanity for an endless quest for instantaneous identity. “As an actor, she seems to capture in a moment everything about who she is depicting — the life they lived,” says actress Demi Moore. “There is something intimate and very empowering in the idea that she is the beginning, the middle and the end. She is the subject, the photographer, the art director — all of it.”
Moore brought her daughter Scout Willis to the exhibition opening. The Margin Call star expressed admiration for Sherman’s work, standing in front of an earlier photograph by the artist that has been enlarged to mural scale on the gallery wall: “It’s very powerful — the pink robe series in particular. She is somebody who had a huge influence and impact for me. Most actors really aren’t very comfortable being photographed. And when I came upon her work it changed my whole perspective on what it could mean to be the subject and how you could utilize it to play characters and tell a story and it not necessarily be about you.”
Kaiser worked closely with Sherman to customize her life’s work for the Broad Museum and more for the audience here in Los Angeles. “I encouraged her,” says Kaiser. “We knew from the very beginning it was going to be a survey from 1975 to the present, but I wanted to emphasize the cinematic in her work.” He also pointed out that the artist’s last show here in Los Angeles was 20 years ago across the street at MOCA, at the mid-point in her career.
Summing up her response to the show, Arquette clearly identified with the way Sherman’s large-format photographs play with the idea of fame and glamour: “I think it is so interesting, too, because there is a part of you as an artist that wants to be successful, but then when you become successful you get trapped in your success or you become like an idea of what people have of you instead of yourself.”
“Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life” will be on view at the Broad Museum until Oct. 2.
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