Ida OppenPale Afternoon from The Wicked Innocent series (201X)

Ida Oppen is an early twenty-something freelance image maker hailing from the suburbs of Oslo.

Her work transcends the perfunctory reproaches I customarily present. Honestly, I am profoundly impressed with her sophisticated compositions, precocious attention to scale and use of color.

Thus, the bifurcation into two mutually exclusive bodies of work–the editorial/‘fine art’ and the sexually explicit–really fucking baffles me.

From the standpoint of commerical viability, this is understandable: ‘professional’ clients are unlikely to appreciate graphic presentations of genitalia, intercourse and sexual effluvia.

What fails to track is the degree to which Oppen’s approach varies between disparate oeuvres.

The painstaking craft of the editorial work loosens in favor of a grittier immediacy. Not that craft is by any means lacking–pay attention to the precision of the framing (especially in the multiple image assemblages reminiscent of analog contact sheets), the manufactured multiple exposures and the–admittedly less astute–digital chromatic interventions.

Oppen admits this is what she’s after in her artist’s statement for The Wicked Innocent series. And there really isn’t much room for argument. She knows what she’s doing as well as how it is going to be read by an audience.

But as a member of that ostensible audience I would like to be pushed outside of my comfort zone and confronted a little more directly. Honestly, I mean that less as a criticism and more as a misguided compliment because although I know Oppen does not conceptualize this work as pornography, it offers me everything I look for–but rarely find–there. It’s partly that there seems to be a great deal of overlap between the kinds of sex with which Oppen is preoccupied and my own interests. But that is only intensified by the fact that vulnerability and trust factor so prominently into the process of making the images.

Viewing the work there is an unshakeable sense that the openness is equally if not more arousing than that which is explicitly depicted; the feeling that I am seeing what I am seeing not because there’s any expectation that it will turn me on but that it is a record of what gets someone else overwhelmingly aroused.

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