Lesson 4: Gender in Contemporary Art


Contemporary artists can often represent gender in differnt ways than we, the viewer are used to present an alternative way of viewing the subject.


Students will view the artwork of Cindy Sherman (Untitled Film Series), Collier Schorr (Jen. F Project) and Catherine Opie (Being and Having) all of whom show differing presentations of gender. Students will think about how contemporary artists explore and subvert gender representation in their artwork. Students will understand how color correction (hue), photo filters, brightness and contrast are used to bring separate elements together in a digital collage.

Cultural References:

Cindy Sherman’s photograph self-portraits in her Untitled Film Stills shows fictional female characters in common poses from television and movies. In each photograph, her character is complete with wardrobe, makeup, props that make suggestions about how we recognize and categorize female representation. Collier Schorr’s Jens F. Project was a collaboration between her and a young German boy based off of the portraiture work of Andrew Wyeth. Her subject is seen in the same poses as Wyeth’s female models, asking if what we are looking at is inherently a female pose and complicating our definitions of masculinity. Finally Catherine Opie’s series Being and Having riffs on the classic portrait, each assumedly female subject donning fake facial hair and staring directly into the camera. Opie’s portraits, while simplistic, emphasize the question of identity and female masculinity.

Instructional Input:

Students will view art work from three contemporary female artists (Cindy Sherman, Collier Schorr, Catherine Opie) whose work attempts to question and critique gender representation in art and popular media. Students will be asked to discuss what they feel the artists’ intentions are regarding the representation of gender in their artwork. Students will be asked to discuss and respond to the artists work.

Demo/Art Activity:

Students will be shown two separate images created by the instructor, one without adjustments (color correction, filters, brightness and contrast) and one in which adjustments were used. The students will look a how each adjustment affects the image in terms of overall feel and cohesion. Students will continue working on their digital collage considering how adjustments to individual layers can create cohesion within their collage.


Students will be assessed once again by their participation in the discussion surrounding the artworks presented and on their efforts preparing their completed works for exhibition.

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