#CindyGate. Cindy Sherman’s Attempt to Explain Blackface Portraits Isn’t Cutting it.

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Cindy Sherman Bus Riders
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In 1976, famed conceptual photographer Cindy Sherman performed in blackface for her series “Bus Riders.”

The images were recently brought to the attention of many, courtesy of performance artist E. Jane, who researched “Bus Riders” after discovering it herself on Facebook. E.Jane shared her findings, and her thoughts on social media, using the hashtag #Cindygate.

“I was very frustrated to find out that Cindy Sherman performed in blackface within the series and the flatness of the black and brown characters she generated from that work,” E.Jane told The Creators Project, last fall. “It seems she is employing humor within some of the characters in blackface which holds a specific history in America; A history Cindy Sherman should definitely have been aware of and considered before making that work intentional.”

#CindyGate sparked a new and ongoing dialogue about racial representation and the use of blackface in contemporary art. The recent discussions most likely prompted Sherman to include a statement about her use of blackface during “Imitation of Life,” a retrospective exhibition of Sherman’s work, currently on view at L.A.’s The Broad museum. Sherman essentially blames naivete and poor makeup skills for her appearance in “Bus Riders.”

E.Jane offered up a response to the Broad’s decision to display the work, and got to the heart of the issue.


The revival of #CindyGate, comes just days after yet another set of terrible statements about race surfaced from artist and Kanye West collaborator Vanessa Beecroft. It serves as yet another example of what happens when white artists attempt to post modern about the subject of race. The results are pretty much indistinguishable from past transgressions.


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