This page is from an archive of Record articles from 1995-2003. For the most recent news, please visit

Catherine Opie, photographer and Freund Fellow, to speak

Catherine Opie, photographer and Freund Fellow, to speak

by Liam Otten

Catherine Opie is renowned for her urban landscapes, including "Untitled #27" (1994, above). Opie is the new Freund Fellow at the School of Art and the Saint Louis Art Museum.
Catherine Opie is renowned for her urban landscapes, including

California photographer Catherine Opie, recently selected as the fourth recipient of the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Fellowship, will discuss her work at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6, as part of the School of Art's 1999-2000 Visiting Artist Lecture Series. The lecture will take place in Steinberg Hall Auditorium.

The one-year Freund Fellowship, which begins this fall, calls for Opie to teach in the art school and to present an exhibition of her work at The Saint Louis Art Museum.

Sabina Ott, director of the art school's Graduate Program, and Rochelle Steiner, assistant curator of contemporary art at the art museum, jointly chaired the Freund Fellowship search committee.

"Catherine Opie's work is both psychologically and formally compelling," said Ott. "She offers an astute examination of the construction of identity in our contemporary culture; her work cuts across disciplinary boundaries to touch on issues that are vital to contemporary artists, whatever their medium."

Added Steiner: "The Freund Fellowship is a unique model for collaboration. It brings together an internationally known artist, art students and the museum community. We are grateful to the Freund family for their ongoing support of contemporary art."

Opie was selected from an international field of approximately 150 candidates. At the University, she will teach a graduate seminar on contemporary theory and will conduct regular studio critiques with graduate students from all disciplines, including painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture.

Opie is known for her unflinching yet highly aestheticized portraits of various California subcultures, from the gay and lesbian communities of Los Angeles to the minimalls that fill the city's surrounding suburbs. While her work is striking for its frank, often discomforting portrayal of a sitter's sexuality, Opie also sees her photographs -- in their attention to detail, vivid coloration and tendency to beautify their subjects -- as heir to a traditional mode of formal portraiture that can be traced back to such old master painters as Hans Holbein.

Opie also is known for her photographs of urban landscapes, which she began in the mid-1990s while commuting between university positions in Los Angeles and Irvine, Calif. Freeways, overpasses, on/off ramps, strip malls and other familiar symptoms of urban sprawl serve both as source material for aesthetically beautiful images and as editorial comment on the disintegration of contemporary American social discourse.

Born in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1961, Opie studied photography at the San Francisco Art Institute and received a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1985. In 1988, she earned a master's degree from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

Since 1991, Opie's work has been included in more than 100 exhibitions and acquired by institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In 1998 she was selected as the first recipient of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's Emerging Artist Award.

The Freund Fellowship was begun in 1994 as a cooperative venture between the art school and the museum to bring outstanding artists to St. Louis.

For more information, call 935-6500.