When you think of America, what do you see? For more than three decades, renowned photographer Catherine Opie has turned a careful and attentive eye towards the imaging of the United States, its citizens and communities, traditions and landscapes.
Opie travels widely across the country to engage traditional ideas of the American experience while simultaneously upending and expanding conventional ideals and identities. Her portraits—from her earliest images of gay, lesbian, and transgender friends taken in the early 1990s to now—elevate people from all walks of life to the status of a Renaissance portrait, and redefine both notions of beauty and of who deserves to be on a gallery wall. Her recent work often foregrounds the political sphere, and has taken a critical stance on major issues such as climate change, gun control, and immigration. She has also been a leading voice in criticism surrounding equal representation in museum collections, and played a decisive role in recent and contentious public debate about the sale of a historic work by Diego Rivera by the San Francisco Art Institute. Opie’s remarkable 2009 series documenting President Barack Obama’s first inauguration is part of the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection and was recently on view in the exhibition Manifesto: Art x Agency.
On the heels of America’s most recent transfer of presidential power, Opie joins Hirshhorn associate curator Anne Reeve to revisit her 2009 series and discuss the role of photography in both creating and undoing our sense of self-hood—as both individuals and citizens.
This event is also part of #HirshhornInsideOut, the Museum’s initiative to bring art into your home.
Image: Heather Rasmussen