Not on view
Image (sight): 39 × 28 3/8in. (99.1 × 72.1 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee
Rights and reproductions
© Catherine Opie; courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles
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.