Self Portrait
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svdgrift's picture


Catherine puts you and your incredibly tacky stick figure family car sticker to shame.

"Staring at people's faces is a problem with me," Cathy once admitted. While staring at a face, she’s simply busy making a mental picture. But yeah, staring can sometimes freak people out. Catherine is famous for her portraits, especially those of the queer community  during the AIDS crisis. Her self portraits on the other hand though rarely show her face.

For Self  PortraitCathy turns her back to the camera. Her back shows a freshly carved, pretty gross and bloody stick-figure family portrait. She channels sixteenth-century painter Hans Holbein by using this tacky green background and frames the relatively new subject of queer identity into Holbein's stuffy formal style.

The lesbian stick-figure couple are both wearing a skirt (ugh gender stereotyping). At the time, so called domestic bliss was something she could only dream of, both personally and politically. Talking about stuffy old-fashioned traditions. Eventually Catherine and her partner Julie Burleigh would live their own American Dream though, complete with kids, cats, dogs, chickens and their own vegetable garden. Not so sure about the white picket fence.




  1. “Cath on her portraits”, accessed on January 26, 2017,
  2. SFMOMA on Catherine Opie”, accessed on January 26, 2017,
  3. “Exhibition Catherine Opie Guggenheim”, accessed in January 26, 2017,
  4. “Guggenheim on Vatherine Opie and portraiture”, accessed on January 26, 2017,
  5. NYtimes article on Cath, accessed on January 26, 2017,