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Women in Art: Catherine Opie
Elle Magazine

Catherine Opie - The Unflinching Observer


In one of Catherine Opie's early-90s self-portraits, the word "pervert" has been cut across her chest. "The LGBT community were calling themselves normal, but anyone in the leather community was abnormal," the photographer recalls. "That binary was upsetting to me." Ever since, she's been exploring the creation of identity and the shifting contours of community, focusing her lens on Malibu surfers and empty freeway overpasses; most recently, she's taken on both Elizabeth Taylor's home and numerous national parks (intentionally blurred: "I'm always trying to to recategorize the iconic.") "Her work makes an impact, says Jennifer Blessing, who curated Opie's 2008 Guggenheim solo show and considers her a master in the vein of Walker Evans. That will certainly be true next month, when Opie's troika of solo shows open at the Hammer Museum and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and at Lehmann Maupin gallery in New York. "If you make powerful work, people assume you're, I don't know, edgier than you are," says Opie, who lives in L.A. with painter Julie Burleigh and their son. "I'm much funnier and more sociable than my photographs."