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Catherine Opie

American, born 1961

Catherine Opie's Untitled #9 from the series “Surfers,” 2002–03. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles. © Catherine Opie

Untitled #1–#14, from the series “Surfers,” 2002–03

Color prints, edition 5/5
50 x 40 inches (127 x 101.6 cm) each
George B. and Jenny R. Mathews Fund, 2004

For her series “Surfers,” Catherine Opie photographed people she does not know, living a life she has not experienced—the surfing community in Malibu, California. Rather than photographing them riding dramatic waves, she captured the surfers doing what they do most of the time—waiting. One of the things that attracts her to surfing is the fact that when individuals are out on their boards they are transformed into a community that goes beyond race, religion, and social status. Opie has stated, “You could be a high-powered lawyer or the stoner that lives in his van, it no longer matters. In that time and place is a moment of community that goes beyond the economy of the city.” Another important aspect of the “Surfers” series is the contemplative atmosphere, which allows us to picture ourselves next to the artist on the beach and imagine the sound of waves breaking gently on the shore, the cries of seagulls, and perhaps even the surfers’ conversations carrying over the water.

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