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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
Of God and Blue-Footed Boobies
The Providential Scholar
Of the Community, By the Community, For the Community
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Summer 2004
Visual Road Trip
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Photograph of the Serene Ocean
Untitled #13 (Surfers), 2003, by
Catherine Opie. Courtesy of Regen
Projects, Los Angeles

The 13 photographs of surfers off Malibu parallel an earlier body of work, Opie's Icehouses series of 13 photographs of brightly painted ice-fishing shacks on a frozen lake near Minneapolis. Spending hours outdoors with her 8x10 camera fighting frostbite and frozen film in blizzard conditions, Opie caught the horizon line above the frozen lake that stretches across the winter landscape, barely separating gray sky from ice and snow. Both series reflect Opie's fascination with temporary communities. "Like surfing, the icehouses create temporary communities on the water," explains the artist. "For both the Pacific Ocean and this lake, you have to be a millionaire to live on the land. But the water and the frozen lake are public spaces. A stoner guy can be next to a neurosurgeon. They end up being part of the same community."

She has photographed the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, with its tangle of freeways and ubiquitous mini-malls surrounded by multiethnic signage. She has shot Beverly Hills mansions and tract homes in master-planned Valencia. For a series she titled A Long Way from Paris, she spent two years tracking with her camera the gradual dislocation of an immigrant community in her MacArthur Park neighborhood as corridors for the new Metro Rail were tunneled underneath. She captured the stark emptiness of Wall Street with the ill-fated twin towers in the background just three weeks before 9/11. She brought into view the enclosed skyways that crisscross downtown Minneapolis.

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