Cindy Sherman shares

Prior to her West-Coast, SFMOMA opening, Sherman talks siblings, series and privacy

In anticipation of SFMOMA's hosting of her travelling retrospective, The San Francisco Chronicle has published a great Q&A with Cindy Sherman. In the interview, Cindy and Kenneth Baker, The Chronicle's art critic, discuss how her four older siblings influenced her work, which of her series were the most technically challenging, and why she continues to work alone. Read some choice cuts below, or click here for the whole thing. 

Are you an only child?  No, I'm the youngest of five.

Did that give you some impulse toward disguise and impersonation?  Sure.

From imitating or resisting the examples of your siblings?  No. It was more like 'Hey, you guys, remember me? I'm here. I can be like this, I can be like that ...' There were so many years between me and my siblings. The closest to me is nine years older, the oldest is 19 years older, so that's why I was always running after them.

Do you feel that you've been working out some kind of reconciliation with the world you find yourself in, the body you find yourself in? For the longest time, up until a couple of years ago, I was trying to lose myself in the work, literally and figuratively, so that I would never be recognized. Not just that it wouldn't look like me but that it wouldn't look like any of the other characters I'd done before. Just a few years ago, relaxing about that and not feeling this pressure to hide kind of freed me up. I didn't want the challenge of constantly trying to reinvent myself or constantly invent new characters, that shouldn't be the reason why I'm doing what I'm doing.

How does one series end and another begin?  There is usually a moment where I say, 'I've had enough of this, I'm sick of it,' or I feel like I've started to repeat myself within a series. Then I go into production for the series - there's usually a deadline involved, so I'm focusing on that and doing whatever needs to be done for a show. Then I'm sort of drained or distanced from working, so I clean up my studio and put things away. Even though I might have other ideas on a back burner, a couple of years might go by before I get back into the studio again.

Why do you work alone? Is it about privacy?  It's about whatever freedom I feel privacy gives me. ... Briefly in the '80s I tried using friends and family and even hired an assistant to pose, and I felt like I just had to entertain them, be conscious of 'Do you need coffee now? Are you tired? Do you want a break?' And they'd be kind of giggly because they were being made up to look funny.  I push myself but I don't push other people, or if I do, I'm apologising because we're going too late or whatever. Even having an assistant around, I'd feel self-conscious at times, like I'd better look busy now, rather than just spacing out, looking at images online or in magazines, or whatever I might do.