Tuesday, 4 October 2011

MAC Partnership with Cindy Sherman - REALLY?

[Images courtesy of MAC].
What happens when a brilliant postmodern artist, who likes to take engaging self-portraits whilst being dressed up as exaggerated characters, meets a global make-up brand? This is the result. I am torn between feeling as if Cindy Sherman, the artist in question, is taking the piss out of MAC with these images, or if she's just being incredibly clever and resourceful. I think the problem arises because MAC has not released these images as an artistic photoshoot, but as a look that you'd actually want to replicate, whereas part of Sherman's appeal comes from the general reaction to her characters, which is usually, "God, she's brave doing that. She looks ridiculous and she's modelled it on real people,". Essentially, Sherman wouldn't wear these looks in her downtime - she's doing it because it's part of her job - whereas MAC is effectively saying, "Now you can trowel on your make-up too!". To be honest, I do actually like the shade of that purple lipstick, but I don't need to apply it quite like that, and I'm sure it will put off customers who would otherwise relish trying something a little bolder.

Perhaps this second image illustrates my point better. Sherman's artistry is clear here, as she is assuming the persona of a clown and treating the MAC products like face paint, which is often how some of us feel about the ladies on MAC counters (case in point: they tend to call me 'sweetheart' and patronise me because I am not perma-tanned or lip-lined and I don't have 3 sets of false eyelashes on, therefore I must be educated about using up the entire range at once). The sad thing is that MAC make-up in itself is brilliant; the quality is high, the range of colours is always extensive, and a little goes a long way, yet somebody needs to tell the sales assistants that they don't need to keep using themselves as guinea pigs with quite so much gusto. Seeing these Sherman photographs, I can only assume that she may have visited a MAC counter on her travels and is silently chuckling to herself as she applies the slap for this circus-themed shot.

The third image, in my opinion, screams plastic ex-prom queen, but with a touch of Sherman magic, such as in the enlarging and blacking out of the nostrils - please don't try this one at home, regardless of what MAC is advocating. Nobody needs to make their nostrils a focal point unless they have a piercing to show off. The glassy-eyed, vacant expression is classic Sherman and is not really selling the look as something I'd want to imitate for anything other than Halloween. I love Sherman for doing this (the woman has guts and she's an excellent artist), but I feel as though it's been approached from the wrong angle, unless MAC is being very ironic and self-aware and I'm missing the point. As it stands, Sherman is having the last laugh and MAC will be left wondering why nobody wants to 'get the look'.


  1. I remember first year of art school and the first time I saw her work, first time I was shocked but later on I was really impressed.

  2. I agree, Tereza - her work is shocking at first, but once you realise what it's about then she's actually being really clever and making some good points about identity and image.

    Polly x


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