Catherine Opie 2.0 and Adrienne Rich’s 22nd Love Poem

Thursday night was my first Catherine Opie opening. Held at Gladstone Gallery, it featured new portraits from a photographer who has created truly iconic images of our tribe.   It was also a gathering ripe with the beauty of those drawn to Opie’s work.

These dapQsnaps include notables like Diane DiMassa, creator of Hothead Paison, Shelly Mars (catch her Bull Dyke Chronicles at Dixon Place!), Grace Moon of Velvet Park, model Jenny Shimizu and Lauryn Siegel who produces NewNowNext on the Logo Channel.   But they also capture dapperQs of whose fame I am not yet aware.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”dapperq” id=”72157623648252758″]

According to the New York Times, “Ms. Opie came to art-world prominence in the mid-1990s with her large-scale portraits of what she has called her ‘royal family,’ friends in the sadomasochistic leather group in San Francisco. Photographing her highly individualistic tattooed subjects frontally against vibrant-colored backdrops in a manner evocative of Hans Holbein, Ms. Opie sought to give dignified representation to what she felt was a maligned subculture.”

For the record, Catherine is one of us, but appreciated far beyond our fold.  A mid-career survey at the Guggenheim Museum in New York from September 26, 2008 until January 7, 2009, included an encyclopedic exhibition catalogue of all of Opie’s almost 200 works since 1988.

This current show mixes portraits of celesbian like Kate Moennig (the L Word’s “Shane”), Danielle Sea (the L Word’s “Max”), and Jenny Shimizu.   My favorite is of the author Eileen Myles (in whose face I both see myself and cringe at my mortality.)   But the majority of shots feature the every-ze of genderqueerness.

Since the opening, I’ve been thinking of all the ways that dapperQ aspires to be Catherine Opie 2.0.    I passionately want to celebrate our butch beauty, in no small part because I have only recently begun to let go of my own butchphobia. Opie’s been celebrating this beauty, long before transmen were cool.   She went there when few women — especially those our age — had a clue.

dapperQ invites Catherine’s subjects to walk out of their frame, to describe how they present in the world. The common thread?  A seemingly innocuous focus on fashion.  Our street fashion videos are shot with Flip Cams (the video camera of the people) not because we don’t have more expensive cameras but because we are turning them on one another.   The richness derives not from our technique, but from the hard-won authenticity that burns these digital images.

dapperQ is recruiting correspondents to capture street fashion interviews in their backyards because we understand that NYC is not DesMoine or Atlanta or Bulverde, Texas where I grew up.   Every time we shoot, we can think of those who thirst for images of our big, butch, gay lives.

I want dapperQ to “scale” what Catherine has done. I want web technologies to make this dapperQ an effort we do together. I want to multiply in our culture, the current dearth of images, which feature masculine females, genderqueers and transmen.

From the the 13th of Adrienne Rich’s “Twenty One Love Poems” from her book, The Dream of a Common Language:

The rules break like a thermometer,
quicksilver spills across charted systems,
we’re out in a country that has no language
no laws, we’re chasing the raven and the wren
through gorges unexplored since dawn
whatever we do together is pure invention
the maps they gave us were out of date
by years…

I believe we are desperate for a common language and that our transgenderational divides have deprived us of one another too long.

Ms. Rich,  I want dapperQ to be the 22nd love poem.    I want dapperQ to be Catherine Opie 2.0.

I don’t want to be original, I simply want to be of use.

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