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, photographing gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals 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 both identity and place by exaggerating masculine or feminine characteristics, or by exaggerating distance, cropping, or blurring her landscapes.
Opie received a B.F.A. from San Francisco Art Institute in 1985, and an M.F.A. from CalArts in 1988. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at The Current Now, Stowe, VT (2022); Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY (2020); the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art, Winnipeg, Canada (2020); Marciano Foundation, Los Angeles, CA (2019); 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, Los Angeles, CA (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art, Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, CA (2016); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2016); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2015); Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA (2012); Socrates Sculpture Park, New York, NY (2012); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (2011); Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR (2010); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2008); Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, IL (2006); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2002); and the Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO (2000). Select group exhibitions featuring her work include Picturing Motherhood Now: Images for a New Era, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (2021); Mother!, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark (2021); New Time: Contemporary Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, University of California, Berkeley, CA (2021); Masculinities: Liberation through Photography, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany (2020); Ansel Adams: In Our Time, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AK (2020); Art After Stonewall, 1969-1989, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH (2020); Kiss My Genders, Hayward Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2019); Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY (2019); West by Midwest, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL (2018); Ansel Adams in Our Time, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA (2018); Selections from the Permanent Collection: Catherine Opie and Sterling Ruby, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2017); Breaking News, Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2016-2017); A Slow Succession with Many Interruptions, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA (2016-2017); Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2016); Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY (2016); Perfect Likeness: Photography and Composition, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2015); America Is Hard to See, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2015); and Role Models: Feminine Identity in Contemporary American Photography, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2008).
Opie’s work is in numerous international public and private collections, including Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; The Broad, Los Angeles, CA; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA; Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City, Mexico; Collezione Patrizia e Augustino Re Rebaudengo Sandretto, Turin, Italy; Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY; Hall Art Foundation, Reading, VT; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, Australia; Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York, NY; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL; Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX; The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; National Portrait Gallery, London, United Kingdom; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL; Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Si Shang Art Museum, Beijing, China; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT.
Opie has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Guggenheim Fellowship, Photography (2019), Aperture Foundation Award (2018), Smithsonian Archives of American Art Medal (2016), Women’s Caucus for Art President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement (2009). United States Artists Fellowship (2006), San Francisco Art Institute President’s Award for Excellence (2006), Larry Aldrich Award (2004), and the CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts (2003). She has been a professor of fine art at the University of California, Los Angeles, since 2001 and serves on the board of directors of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.