Comparative Analysis Of Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother And Cindy Sherman's Paintings #92

Throughout the ages, the importance of art has been playing a crucial role and a huge part in many people’s life. There are many different forms of art, such as drawing, painting. Art also can be acting, styling, or fashion, etc. All of these are an embodiment of expression. Art allows individuals to explore their creativity, world, imagination, and it also allows people to express their feelings and emotions. This paper will discuss about two different art pieces, such as Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother and 1936 with Cindy Sherman's Paintings #92. It will also talk about the elements of color, space, and what kind of deeper meanings they have.

The first art is a photograph, Migrant Mother, taken by Dorothea Lange at the year of 1936 in Nipomo, California. In this photo, it is possible to say that the woman in the center of the picture is the mother of the three children, and she clearly appears to be worried and concerned for something. The two children that faced away from the camera put their heads onto the woman’s shoulders. There is one little child at the right bottom, who is sleeping peacefully, in the woman’s left arm. These three children look like they are counting on or depending on to the woman in the picture. The woman is slightly pinching the side of her face with her right hand. Looking at this picture is making viewers to feel pity and sorrow because of the sad looking woman and the unenergetic two children. The very first thing that viewers might notice in the picture is the color; it is a black-and-white photograph and was taken in 1936, which was during the time of Great Depression. According to the article, “Great Depression” by Gene Smiley, Smiley stated that “…Although the Great Depression was relatively mild in some countries, it was severe in others, particularly in the United States, where, at its nadir in 1933, 25 percent of all workers and 37 percent of all nonfarm workers were completely out of work.” A lot of people were starved, and many others lost their farms and homes. The depression started when stock market crashed in 1929 and the economy continued to suffer until early 1940s. Lange used her photographic skills to document the victims’ hardship and difficulties from the Great Depression. This image shows that how blue-colored Americans had to suffer and what they had to go through. The image also appeared to be a precise depiction of America’s societies and political tragedy at the time.

The second art is a picture of herself, Untitled #92, taken by Cindy Sherman in 1981. In this picture, she is on the floor with wet hair, and she is either looking at something or fearfully looking away from the camera. It’s possible to assume that she is not looking for something on the ground nor she is with someone else at the moment. It is also very questionable that how she got down to the ground, and why her hair is wet. She appears to be wearing a navy blue and red striped skirt and a white shirt that look like a school uniform. She looks frozen by unknown fear. Her face and the way that she is posed make viewers think that there’s something unknown struggle. One might think that she just escaped from unknown attack, however, she seems to get caught from running away from the unknown attack. This picture could be in a horror movie film if there’s something bad is about to happen to her. In the article, Untitled #92, by ART INSTITVTE CHICAGO, it mentioned that “In 1981 she began a series of large color photographs that mimic the horizontal format of a magazine centerfold. Though formally reminiscent of such glossy spreads, Sherman’s representations are fraught with anxiety, vulnerability, and longing.” It is interesting that she took a picture that make viewers fall in a mystery. Pictures like this Untitled#92 are so believable and convincing a certain quality that can really deliver the viewer into the depicted situation. There is obviously a story behind this piece, and one can only try to assume what it is. During the time when this picture was taken, Vietnam War was over six years ago. Most of the soldier who came back from the War felt conflict in the killing they saw and returned to their county without a warm welcome. Some veterans from the war could not adopt to the society and became a problem in the country. According to, History 1980s, by History, The United States was also experiencing “…its worst recession since the Great Depression. Nine million people were unemployed in November of that year. Businesses closed, families lost their homes and farmers lost their land.” American people not only had to face the hardship and difficulties but also had no other options.

Both Dorothea Lange and Cindy Sherman have similar feelings and different feelings even though they both lived in different time. Both Lange and Sherman seem to know how to express their creativity and imagination by using cameras. The viewers will not be able to know the exact purpose of the pictures, but viewers can assume and analyze by considering when the images were made and looking at the images. Lange and Sherman both lived when the country was economically having a difficult time. The picture of Migrant Mother was taken during the time of Great Depression, and the Untitled#92 was taken when American people were facing the Recession and trauma from War. The two images were clear that they were not delivering positive feeling to the viewers, and both images depicted a fear that will coming to their future. They both left the viewers with mysterious and unpleasant feelings. The main difference from the two images is the color. The first picture, Migrant Mother, was a black-and-white art, and the other picture, Untitled#92, was taken by a color camera. The black and white picture represents the feelings of complicated love, unrelenting fear, obscured understanding, pain and sorrow and hope. On the other hand, color images are usually giving the effect when color is a key element in the story artist’s photo is telling. When the relationships between distinct hues in artist’s image are important, color is often the best choice. The color picture in the second picture leads the viewers to focus onto the person by presenting dark background and colorful image to the center.

In conclusion, art can lead people to explore their world and imagination. By considering the two pictures and when and the pictures were taken, it is fair to say that the two pictures were based on their difficult life times. one may believe that most art readily fits into the category of reflecting the history of its time. The amazing thing about great arts is that people can attach their own memory and interpretation to the artists’ arts. All of these were worth noticing because it makes one to see that how art has powerfully influenced and visualized in people’s life.

Works Cited

  • Muscato, Christopher. “Migrant Mother: Photograph Analysis & Facts.” Accessed December 1, 2019.
  • Smiley, Gene, Arnold Kling, Steven Horwitz, Thomas Gale Moore, and Joseph J. Minarik. “Great Depression.” Econlib. Accessed December 1, 2019.
  • Sherman, Cindy. “Untitled #92.” The Art Institute of Chicago. Contemporary Art, January 1, 1981.
  • Editors. “The 1980s.” A&E Television Networks, August 23, 2018.
16 December 2021
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