Visual Road Trip
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Whether it is icehouses on a frozen
lake in Minnesota or surfers at Malibu, photographer Catherine Opie
crisscrosses the country to capture images that describe what makes
By Cynthia Lee
An apparition takes shape in the diffused light filtering
through the hazy morning fog that obscures the ocean view
from Sunset Beach in Malibu. A lone surfer floating in the white
foam of a shallow trough waits expectantly between incoming sets
of waves. The artist's eye of photographer Catherine Opie framed
this moment of quiet anticipation in panorama, with the horizon
line barely discernible as it separates air from water. For the
viewer, Opie sought an ethereal perspective.
"I chose this place because I wanted it to feel as if you
were floating out over the edge" — into water, into air,
into a place where Opie has suspended time, space and a moment of
unfulfilled, yet hopeful, expectation.
Even before the art world began to take notice more than a decade
ago of the groundbreaking work of fine-arts photographer Catherine
Opie, she was making compelling images that document what she calls
"a specificity of place," based on her lifelong fascination
with the way "place" relates to identity, community and
In her latest series on surfers, recently exhibited in the 2004
Whitney Biennial in New York, Opie, a professor of art, has once
again defined "place," this time as the boundless ocean.
Her interest here is not in the act of surfing, but in this liquid
public space where temporary communities are created, where two
surfers, strangers from different social strata, can form a temporary
bond as they straddle their boards on the rolling swells and wait.