#76 An Artist's Life
The artist’s life used to be sorted into three parts: emergent, mid-career, and established. The reality, of course, is murkier: Andy Warhol emerged from an erased past, motherhood “skipped” Louise Bourgeois’s mid-career, and Philip Guston renounced his established art – to say nothing of posthumous revisionism. How, then, can we take the measure of what an oeuvre adds up to?
In a thousand guises on as many sets, the personae in Cindy Sherman’s pictures document an unfolding of the self, leaving a half-century’s oddities and fantasies exposed. Visiting the debut of her latest works, she and Kunsthalle Zürich’s Daniel Baumann unpack her interest in the grotesque, ways of abstracting ageing, and a conviction that what’s scary can also be very funny.
We just love a “badass” woman-artist. The system can handle rebellion – so long as it’s one heroine at a time. Underdog stories sell, as biopics and prestige TV and gift-shop chintz, while making for easy understandings of “difficult” work. But how to break out of the mythology trap? New narrative forms must commit to putting the art first, no matter how radical the biography underneath.