House Proud

9.24.2008

By Jordan Hruska

A stronger manifesto of this desire is seen in her 1993 Self-Portrait/Cutting, where the childish scrawl of a house, two stick figures of women holding hands, and passing clouds and gulls has been literally etched into the expanse of Opie's naked back. One's initial shock at her mutilation is somewhat neutralized in the prosaic nature of the scene. With her portraits and built environments, Opie creates humane compositions that quietly ask the viewer to question archetypes of varying scales.

'I never read my photographs as humiliating; I see them as more about how we perceive ideas of democracy,' she says.

Opie's son Oliver can be seen employing this philosophy. In her photograph Oliver in a Tutu the cherub-faced child smiles in a college sports shirt and a bright pink tutu -- an eradication (or embracing) of differences in gender roles. Life still goes on in the background: The sun is at afternoon's level, the laundry is coming out to be folded, and eaves that are to be painted chocolate-brown years later frame the day.

'Catherine Opie: American Photographer' runs from September 26, 2008'January 7, 2009, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; Guggenheim.org

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