NARRATOR: Eva Respini, Associate Curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
EVA RESPINI: This photograph is part of a series of pictures that feature women of a certain age, from the top echelons of polite society. We see a woman in an opulent caftan posing against a fabulous backdrop. Sherman photographed herself in her own studio against a green screen, and then went out and photographed various locations and digitally inserted them. In this case, the backdrop is actually the Cloisters, in New York City.
At first glance, she seems very well put together. But if you look at her shoes you see that they're cheap plastic slippers that, in fact, Sherman bought at the dollar store. And she’s wearing these thick stockings, the kind of stockings you would wear if you had varicose veins. And so this kind of glossy perfection of this woman unravels the moment you start to look carefully.
This photograph is larger than life. The scale allows the viewer to enter in and see all the various details. You'll start to see some signs of aging such as wrinkles around the eyes or loose skin around the neck. And these are all details that Sherman is presenting to show a tension between the surface of how women present themselves to the world, and the reality that lurks underneath. It's also a comment on how an obsession with class and status and youth are very much at the heart of culture today.