Take a look at these portraits by Catherine Opie. Shown as Opie’s first one-person gallery exhibition in November 1991 at New York’s 494 Gallery, Being and Having marked the artist’s first use of strict seriality. With so many similar photographs, what do you focus your attention on? What’s the first thing your eye is drawn to?! Anything? Anything at all?! I’ll give you a hint: it starts with C and ends with OOKIE DUSTER!

Catherine Opie, Bo, 1991                                              Catherine Opie, Chicken, 1991

Catherine Opie, Jake, 1991

The thirteen color photographs that make up the series are variations on a theme: decked out in exaggerated masculine facial hair, Opie’s friends are shot against a brilliant yellow background while they stare directly into the lens of the camera. Each closely cropped image is presented in a wooden frame bearing a nameplate that lists the sitter’s alias in etched cursive script: Chicken, Con, Ingin, Papa Bear, and so on. Deliberately toying with outward signs of gender, Opie’s photographs challenge the notion of gender identifications as stable or unified.

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