Artwork Detail

American, b. 1961
Chromogenic print
60 x 30 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund, and with funds from Helen Kornblum, 2012
WU 2012.0002
Since the early 1990s, Catherine Opie has created a body of photographic work that challenges traditional notions of cultural, sexual, and community identity and the terms by which they are defined. Trash is part of a series of studio portraits in which Opie photographed gay, lesbian, and transgender men and women drawn from her circle of fellow artists and friends. In this image Opie presents a full-length, leather-clad figure against a deep purple background, a format the artist borrowed from Hans Holbein the Younger’s portraits of sixteenth-century aristocrats. The vibrant background separates the subject from the surrounding world, putting into relief the sitter’s physical attributes and personal style. At the same time, the subject’s features are obscured by a mask of white makeup, painted facial hair, and prosthetic horns, making the gender of the figure impossible to establish with certainty. Through precise composition and framing, Opie elevates her subject, presenting with a sense of dignity and compassion an otherwise misunderstood sector of American culture. [Permanent collection label, 2013]