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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
Good Fellows
The Perfect Storm
The Next Step
Visual Road Trip
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Summer 2004
Visual Road Trip
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In her zeal to focus on her own leather community in Los Angeles in the early '90s, Opie gave the world a startling look at gays, lesbians, sadomasochists, bisexuals and transgenders. "Being an 'out' lesbian, I had to ask myself why was I not representing my own community within my own work," Opie says. "So I decided to leave the world outside, stop traveling around and photographing Los Angeles. Instead, I started working in a studio," stripping away any predisposed notions of "place" for this community. Opie created brightly colored, formal studio portraits that revealed her subjects' attitudes, their dignity, their discomfort, their vulnerability and, most of all, their humanity. Included in this gender-bending series was a self-portrait that was selected to be in the Whitney's '95 Biennial. It showed Opie, wearing a leather hood on her head, with the word "pervert" cut into her chest.

Today, hanging prominently in her backyard studio is a more recent self-portrait: a radiant photograph of her lovingly nursing her baby, Oliver. She is annoyed when people invariably remember her for another self-portrait done in the early '90s that has become iconic: a photograph of her back into which an artist friend had cut a drawing that Opie made of two female stick figures. "When people talk about my work, that's the one they constantly go back to," says Opie, who finds it difficult when people "pathologize" her because of this image. "How do I counter this? How do I create a larger discourse about the work? When I made that work, I wasn't part of the international art community. I just wanted to make work," she explains.

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