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Discussion by Jonathan Katz, co-curator of “Hide/Seek” and Chair of the Visual Studies Doctoral Program at SUNY-Buffalo.

“Being and Having” (Papa Bear, Chief, Jake, and Chicken): Over the past twenty years, Catherine Opie has produced a body of photographic work that constitutes a frank exploration into the formation of communal, sexual, and cultural identities in America. "I am an American photographer," Opie said in a 2008 interview. "I have represented this country and this culture. And I’m glad that there is a queer, out, dyke artist that’s being called an American photographer." “Being and Having” questions the naturalness of gender by emphasizing the presence of a subculture where identity is blurred and disguised. Opie’s subjects flaunt their artificial gender identities; the camera reveals the drips of glue and netting in their fake facial hair. "They don’t want to be men or to pass as men all the time," Opie says about her subjects, who are friends of hers from the lesbian community. "They just want to borrow male fantasies and play with them."

"Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" was on view at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, from October 30 through February 13, 2011.

For more on the exhibit, visit the exhibit website at: http://npg.si.edu/exhibit/hideseek .

Catherine Opie (born 1961) Chromogenic prints, 1991 Gregory R. Miller

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