Only in mid-May did Ms. Sherman turn to her phone’s front-facing camera. The change seems to have come when she downloaded Facetune, an app that permits radical retouching with the swipe of a finger. “I’m good at using my face as a canvas,” Ms. Sherman told The Guardian in 2011, and Facetune permits exactly that; users can smudge their skin with corrective balms, zap moles and wrinkles, and reshape their heads as if they were made of Plasticine. She also uses Perfect365, a makeup simulation app, though the artist’s garish eye shadow and clownish blushes are surely not what its marketing team has in mind.
In her first Instagram self-portrait, from May 12, she appears with shrunken eyes and intensely white teeth, and her skin is softened into artificial mistiness. A day later she became more aggressive, distorting her lips and mottling her skin with digital soot. Sticking to the 16:9 aspect ratio of the iPhone, rather than the standard square format of Instagram, Ms. Sherman quickly produced more than three dozen self-portraits that, though clearly not made with the same rigor as her art, still resonate with the best of her studio works. (She posted two more just this past weekend.)
A post from May 23, in which she appears with weathered skin against prismatic background light, rhymes with her self-portraits as society doyennes of the late 2000s — but she shot this one in the back of a car. In an alienlike selfie with her macaw, taken on June 4, she stands before an incongruous rural backdrop, as in the horizontal “Centerfolds” done with rear-screen projections. Others are consonant with her colorful clown series and darker “Horror” pictures, and some disjunctive digital additions even recall the prostheses of her fierce “Sex Pictures” of the early 1990s.
At first Ms. Sherman may have just been playing around with the push-button filters of retouching apps, simulating her studio trickery as a goof for friends. But while Facetune and Instagram don’t add up to an artistic medium, they can serve as something like a sketchpad or daybook. And where self-obsessed Instagrammers rely on the retouching apps to buff, clean and fictionalize themselves, Ms. Sherman is paradoxically using her feed to let her many masks fall.
From the “Untitled Film Stills” on, Ms. Sherman has disappeared into her photographs — playing received stereotypes of women in the late 1970s and early 1980s, or vanishing into the muck…