Catherine Opie

Self-Portrait/Cutting
1993

Not on view

With their dramatic staging and intimacy of tone, Catherine Opie's photographs of cross-dressers, tattooed dominatrixes, and practitioners of piercing and scarification draw upon the conventions of seventeenth-century Dutch and German portrait painting. In her portraits, Opie works simultaneously with and against art historical conventions. On the one hand, by evoking the techniques of Renaissance portraiture, Opie’s photographs ask to be taken seriously; at the same time, her images radically question traditional standards of sexual orientation, identity, and gender. In Self Portrait/Cutting, the artist depicts herself life-size from the waist up, in front of a baroquely elaborate backdrop. Yet she is shirtless and faces away from the camera, revealing a drawing, still bleeding, that has been scratched into her back; her own skin has been used as a canvas. The cutting depicts in childlike glyphs a tranquil scene of lesbian home life, but the drawing’s tender and sympathetic tone is disrupted by the raw, visceral means through which it was created, undermining any possibility of interpreting the scene as a simple, unfettered image of domestic normalcy.

Artist
Catherine Opie

Title
Self-Portrait/Cutting

Date
1993

Classification
Photographs

Medium
Chromogenic print

Dimensions
Image (sight): 39 × 28 3/8 in. (99.1 × 72.1 cm)

Edition information
1/8

Accession number
94.64

Credit line
Purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee

Rights and reproductions information
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles



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