Artist Cindy Sherman, like me, has a birthday in January. We are of a similar age; she, a little older. Identity work is her project through art as mine is, in various ways, through poetry. I love the ways in which she projects her various selves. I believe we all have many ‘switch-over’ elves. I know I do. As writers we must allow ourselves to ‘be’ other selves in our writing. None of us have one ‘voice’. It is a myth. Think about it. I intend to let some or all of mine out to play in words and/or other ways, in 2016. How about you?
Cindy Sherman says of some of her images, ‘I started to think about some of the characters – how they’re older women and if they’re successful, maybe they’re not really that happy … Maybe they’ve been divorced, or they’re in an unhappy marriage, but because of the money, they’re not going to get out. That’s what I was thinking – that there’s something more below the surface that you can’t see.’ She goes on to tell of all the different ways she disguised herself, photographed herself against many different backdrops, made herself into many women, and men, and both, all her and not her. It is so interesting to read how male critics castigated her on occasion for not looking. er, like a woman, properly feminine/ female or whatever. Hilarious.
I wrote a poem based on an interview she did with director John Waters. Her responses were a million times more interesting than his questions. My poem is notes really, an early draft but I am including it here to reflect my considerable interest in her. I am including one of her clown transformations too.
I didn’t want this poem to be double-spaced however posting now is more important than faffing about.
“It makes sense to go out on a limb in these difficult times.”
It’s weird to be in character
around other people, it feels like a game.
In my bedroom I can be the entire crew.
I want to do a whole series
of men someday. This depth-of field thing.
I make it a condition.
Sometimes I look too much like me
on a bad day. It’s me. It’s not.
I want to be as ugly as I can be.
They got it right. I’m chopping
myself up, getting smaller
I do not recognize myself.
I look like characters
I was doing thirty years ago.
It happens now a lot more easily.
Did I torture my dolls?
I had these troll dolls. I made them houses
out of shoeboxes,I made them furniture,
clothes. They had outfits.
I used to torture my sister’s dolls,
give them bad hairdos, put them back
in the box. I didn’t hate Barbies, no.
I use Photoshop instead of make-up.
I got some clown stuff off Ebay-cut it up, used
the legs as sleeves but it wasn’t real clown stuff.
The day I went out into the world as a ginger-haired, besuited man… well that’s another story.;)