Published September 6, 2013
The Department of Visual Studies will present a lecture by internationally acclaimed documentary photographer Cathy Opie at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 in the Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave.
Opie’s talk, presented in partnership with New York City’s Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center and the Burchfield Penney Art Center, is part of the Leslie-Lohman Queer Art Lecture Series. It is free and open to the public.
Jonathan D. Katz, director of the UB PhD program in visual studies, is the president of the Leslie-Lohman Museum and curated the series.
One of the most visible and widely exhibited lesbian artists in the world, Opie is also one of the rare queer artists to achieve mainstream success on her own terms. In the fall of 2008, for instance, she was the subject of what Katz calls “a major, superlatively reviewed, mid-career retrospective” at the Guggenheim Museum.
Here, she will discuss, among other things, the tension in her work between the personal, the particular, the universal and the general.
“When we first began the Leslie-Lohman lectures, Cathy Opie was the opening name on the list,” Katz says. “But she is heavily in demand so we have been unable to bring her to Buffalo until now. She is a warm, engaging speaker whose work veers between compelling and brilliant. This is a program not to miss.
“She is perhaps the most celebrated living queer photographer,” he adds, “and a founding figure in queer art in general. Her studio portraits rose to prominence in the 1990s, in part due to her repeated subversion of familiar expectations and social codes.”
Opie’s 1993 photograph “Self-Portrait/Cutting” is a photo of her naked back, onto which has been scratched a child-like line drawing, outlined in blood. She says the drawing, which depicts two girls holding hands in front of a house, sun peeking through clouds, portrays her wish at the time for a female partner with whom she might share a home and a life.
“Opie has since moved beyond various species of queer self-representation to produce work that undercuts gender expectations and gives form to the still-nascent queer-theory notion of gender as performance,” says Katz. “Her photos of presumptively heterosexual adolescent men playing football, for instance, underscore her point that the performance of gender is hardly a quality of queers alone.”
Katz points out that other of her series, including those involving moody images of surfers and baroque highway clover leafs “further complicate attempts to describe a neat thematic trajectory in her work.” It has been suggested, however, that her series are linked by a conceptual framework of cultural portraiture.
Currently a photography professor at UCLA, Opie‘s work has been widely exhibited in the U.S., Europe and Japan. She received the Julius Shulman Excellence in Photography Award in 2013 and a United States Artists Fellowship in 2006.
Recent solo exhibitions have been organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Aldrich Museum in Ridgefield, Conn.; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; the Saint Louis Art Museum; the Photographers’ Gallery in London; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles; the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and the Long Beach Museum of Art.
The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is the world’s first museum dedicated solely to providing a venue for multidisciplinary work that engages gay and lesbian historical, social or political issues still excluded from mainstream venues. The Queer Art Lecture Series showcases the most significant contemporary queer artists with an emphasis on exploring the relationship between their sexuality and their art. Each of the lectures in the series also will be presented at the Leslie-Lohman Museum located at 26 Wooster St. in New York City.
Opie’s appearance is co-sponsored by the UB Graduate Group in Queer Studies, the UB Law School’s OUTLaw, and Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York.