NEW YORK, NY.-
In 1979, Cindy Sherman rocked the NYC art world at age 26 with her Film Stills. The haunting photographic series appears to chronicle actresses in the midst of dramatic and evocative film scenes, but is in fact the artist herself posing as the different subjects. Hailed for her play on media and identity, the shy and reclusive Sherman almost always uses herself as the model in her photographs and always in disguise.
Today, at age 54, she is internationally acknowledged as one of the worlds most gifted and significant visual talents -- in May 1999, ARTnews named Sherman, alongside Matisse and Picasso, as one of The 20th Centurys Most Influential Artists. Although Shermans work is collected by every major art museum in the world, she has proven elusive as a media personality. She is not a self-promoter and leads a quiet private life. Sherman rarely does interviews and never explains the meaning of her work. Fans, desperate for a glimpse of this art world celebrity at her 2003 opening in Englands Serpentine Gallery, could not recognize who they were looking for.
Enter her complete opposite -- Paul H-O, a former artist-turned-opinionated host/creator of the public-access series, GalleryBeat. In the nineties, Pauls weekly show developed a cult following, chronicling often-inexplicable happenings in the contemporary art world. Produced on a shoestring budget with help from Art in America magazine editors Walter Robinson and Cathy Lebowitz, the program was a labor of love, driven by a strong affinity for art and its creators. Subjects ranged from the Russian conceptual artist Oleg Kulik (who, performing as a dog, bit an art critic); to profiles of artist-luminaries like Sean Landers and Cecily Brown. By the late nineties, Paul had become a recognizable fixture in the art scene, picking up fans and detractors: artist Julian Schnabel, entangled in an on-camera argument with Paul, called the program idiotic.
In 1999, Paul learned that Cindy Sherman counted herself among his fans. At once, he set out to capture the ultimate prize in art world journalism -- to tape a series of interviews with the elusive artist. Cornering her at an art gallery opening, Paul asked for her participation. Surprising many (including Paul), Sherman agreed. As he started the series of interviews, fun banter turned into harmless flirting, and harmless flirting turned into something more - Paul and Cindy were falling in love. Soon after they started dating, Paul faced a series of personal crises, including illness and bankruptcy. Cindy stood by him, providing her love and support. In 2001, Paul moved into her SoHo loft, becoming further enmeshed in her world.
Guest of Cindy Sherman
takes an eye-opening look at what happens when a skeptical outsider finds himself romantically involved with the ultimate insider. Pauls assumption that dating a famous artist would be a piece of cake was quickly proved wrong. As a writer, I thought itd be great to be a fly on the wall in some of the most elite salons in the world, he relates, but as a person, it really sucks to be treated like one. In 2003, he has a rude awakening - invited to an A-list dinner party with Cindy, Paul cant find his name among the place settings. A sinking feeling sets in as he realizes his place card reads, simply, Guest of Cindy Sherman, and is located on a table far away from his date. Woefully, he comes to realize he has lost all that had given him his sense of worth his show, his money, and now even his name.
Through it all, he continues to turn his camera on Cindy, chronicling their life together. With unprecedented access, Guest of Cindy Sherman places us in the intimate company of a great artist. It asks the central questions how could such a seemingly sweet woman create such dark and uncompromising work? How does the artist continue to reinvent herself and her work without the round-the-clock management, publicity and stylists that accompany other stars in their chameleon-like transformations?
The documentary combines rare, intimate verité of Sherman with anecdotes by friends and associates (filmmaker John Waters, writer/performer Eric Bogosian, artist Eric Fischl, Interview Magazine editor Ingrid Sischy, actors Danny De Vito, Carol Kane, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Molly Ringwald, producer Christine Vachon, New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, collector Eli Broad, fashion designer Mucchia Prada, among others) and dozens of hours of GalleryBeat footage. Also interviewed are Cindys relatives and college friends, and the documentary includes Super-8 home movies shot by Shermans father. Paul and his video camera went with Cindy to every opening shes had in the last five years, on their vacations, to summers at the beach, recording the glamour of being a celebrity artist and the more mundane aspects of her everyday life.
Guest of Cindy Sherman is both a quirky valentine to one of the greats and an uncompromising look at the art industry itself, seen through the penetrating gaze of a man who discovers that while hes finally found a happy, fulfilling relationship, somewhere along the way, he lost himself.