Catherine Opie (b. 1961, Sandusky, OH; lives in Los Angeles) is known for her powerfully dynamic photography that examines the ideals and norms surrounding the culturally constructed American dream and American identity. She first gained recognition in the 1990s for her series of studio portraits titled Being and Having, in which she photographed gay, lesbian, and transgender men and women drawn from her circle of friends and artists. Opie has traveled extensively across the country exploring the diversity of America’s communities and landscapes, documenting quintessential American subjects—high school football players and the 2008 presidential inauguration—while also continuing to display America’s subcultures through formal portraits. Using dramatic staging, Opie presents cross-dressers, same-sex couples, and tattooed, scarred, and pierced bodies in intimate photographs that evoke traditional Renaissance portraiture—images of power and respect. In her portraits and landscapes, Opie establishes a level of ambiguity—of identity and place—by exaggerating masculine or feminine characteristics, or by exaggerating the distance of the shot, cropping, or blurring her landscapes.
Opie received a BFA from San Francisco Art Institute in 1985, and an MFA from CalArts in 1988. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at the Princeton University School of Architecture, Princeton, NJ (2018); Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway (2017); Nova Southeastern University Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, FL (2017); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art, Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles (2016); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2015); Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA (2012); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York (2012); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2011); Portland Art Museum, OR (2010); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2008); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2006), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2002); and the Saint Louis Art Museum, MO (2000). Select group exhibitions featuring her work include Implicit Tensions: Maplethorpe Now, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2019); West by Midwest, MCA Chicago, Chicago, IL (2018); Ansel Adams in Our Time, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2018); Selections from the Permanent Collection: Catherine Opie and Sterling Ruby, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2017); Breaking News, Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2016-2017); A Slow Succession with Many Interruptions, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA (2016-2017); Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2016); Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, Brooklyn Museum, NY (2016); Perfect Likeness: Photography and Composition, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2015); Residue: The Persistence of the Real, Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada (2015); America Is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015); Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2015); Unbound: Contemporary Art After Frida Kahlo, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2014); and Role Models: Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (2008).
Opie’s work is in numerous international public and private collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Miami Art Museum; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and the Tate, London.
Opie has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Citibank Private Bank Emerging Artist Award, Washington University Freund Fellowship, CalArts Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, Larry Aldrich Award, San Francisco Art Institute President's Award for Excellence, and United States Artist Fellowship. She has been a professor of fine art at UCLA since 2001 and serves on the board of directors of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the board of trustees of MOCA, Los Angeles.