Last week, MAC Cosmetics announced a new collaboration with Cindy Sherman, the avant-garde photographer known for styling herself as odd caricatures. Since the ’70s, she’s snapped herself in costume, using cosmetics and prosthetics to morph into mud-caked corpses or Caravaggio figures. In her MAC campaign, heavy-handed stage makeup transforms her into a weary clown, a Park Avenue plastic surgery enthusiast and a Hitchcock gal on the run. The campaign resembles her art, except that now she’s hawking mainstream products.

Some may call Sherman a sell-out, but with Christie’s auctioning one of her recent photos for $3 million, the icon doesn’t need a corporate paycheck. Instead, it’s likely these ads are a not-so subtle commentary on a beauty industry that thrives on feminine insecurity. Sherman has always taken makeup to extremes, pushing the limits of appearance. Now, MAC lovers can emulate her defiance.

It’s a brilliant campaign, highlighting the versatility of makeup and, perhaps, the rigidity of our own application. Adhering to one standard of beauty does not make good art. Sherman’s learned that the profitable way.

Photo courtesy of MAC