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It Ain't Mayberry

July 10, 1994

Regarding "Welcome to Opie's World," by Kristine McKenna (June 26):

Catherine Opie's world of perverse sexuality and fragmented identity reveals how confused we've become as a culture.

While reading McKenna's upbeat descriptions of the photographer's forays into piercings, ritualized sexuality and the developing of personas that include psychopaths and prostitutes, I felt sick.

Not because I haven't the capacity for such evil. But because the objects of Opie's vision were framed as just another variation, a human liberty, in the photographer's own words, "the freedom to image oneself as one sees fit."

Freedom? The only freedom I could imagine would be liberation from the compulsion to create false and destructive selves, or from the need to inflict pain in order to feel sexual pleasure. But art in the '90s seems bereft of any hint of what is true and whole in regard to sexuality and gender.

Opie's world offers us little more than a vision of people in profound need whose lives testify to how destructive our attempts at love can be. Any other assessment does a disservice to her community, and to the truth of our capacity for gender and sexual wholeness.


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