Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger

Overview

Otherworldly, provocative, and strange, Awake in the Dream World channels the looming, historical grimness of the classic fairy tale, illuminating the dichotomy between the real and imagined through the context of fantasy, and bringing to life a macabre ensemble of folkloric characters. Awake in the Dream World is a mid-career retrospective of artist and author Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife, bestselling novel turned feature film), reflecting her talent for cultivating a captivating narrative ...
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Overview

Otherworldly, provocative, and strange, Awake in the Dream World channels the looming, historical grimness of the classic fairy tale, illuminating the dichotomy between the real and imagined through the context of fantasy, and bringing to life a macabre ensemble of folkloric characters. Awake in the Dream World is a mid-career retrospective of artist and author Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife, bestselling novel turned feature film), reflecting her talent for cultivating a captivating narrative exclusively through pictures and her own confrontations with life, mortality, and magic.

Niffenegger's fantastical body of work is reminiscent of renowned pen and ink predecessors such as Edward Gorey, Aubrey Beardsley, Egon Schiele, Edward Dulac, and Horst Janssen, but with a brutally honest and unapologetically strange female perspective that touches upon the universal trials of life—death and decay, love, jealousy, redemption, and the inevitability of change. Her works on paper, lithographs, and aquatints reflect the often surreal narratives of her artist's books. Through self-portraiture, Niffenegger reveals her own self-assurance and whimsy alongside anxiety and loneliness, probing darker corners of the human heart and mind, often exploring the hopeless struggle with what Shakespeare called "this bloody tyrant, Time."

Essays by Audrey Niffenegger, National Museum of Women in the Arts Curator of Book Arts Krystyna Wasserman, and Art Institute of Chicago Curator and School of the Art Institute Professor Mark Pascale explore the artist's influences and work.

Published in conjunction with the June 21—November 10, 2013 exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781576876398
  • Publisher: powerHouse Books
  • Publication date: 5/14/2013
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 9.70 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Audrey Niffenegger
Audrey Niffenegger is a visual artist and writer who lives mostly in Chicago and occasionally in London. She has published six books, including the novels The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry. She helped to found the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts. Her art has been exhibited by Printworks Gallery in Chicago since 1986. She is a Professor in the Fiction Department of Columbia College. Her current projects include her third novel, The Chinchilla Girl in Exile, and a ballet, Raven Girl, in collaboration with Wayne McGregor for the Royal Opera House Ballet.
 
Krystyna Wasserman is currently Curator of Book Arts at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C. She established NMWA’s Library and Research Center, serving as its director from 1987 through 2002. She now oversees the museum’s collection of more than 1,000 artists’ books. She has curated more than thirty exhibitions of artists’ books, sketchbooks, and illustrations, including The Book as Art: Twenty Years of Artists’ Books from the National Museum of Women in the Arts (2006). Wasserman is a member of NMWA’s Library Fellows, a program she developed to support the creation of artists’ books.
 
Mark Pascale is a lithographer who has been active in the Chicago art world for more than 30 years, as a curator, researcher, and teacher. He is Curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings at The Art Institute of Chicago, and concurrently Adjunct Professor of Art in Print Media, at School of the Art Institute. His numerous exhibitions and publications include Contemporary Drawings from the Irving Stenn Jr. Collection, and Jasper Johns: Gray published by The Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently working on a retrospective exhibition of the prints and drawings of Martin Puryear.

Biography

In her book Three Incestuous Sisters, Audrey Niffenegger tells the tale of a trio of sisters, each with her own special trait. There is blond Bettine, the beautiful one, blue-haired Ophile, the smart one, and then there's Clothilde. While hardly unintelligent and certainly not unattractive, it is still probably no coincidence that Niffenegger decided to cast her fellow redhead Clothilde as the talented one considering that she is so abundant in talent. A gifted illustrator and writer, Niffenegger is parlaying her quirky imagination into one of the most interesting bodies of work in contemporary literature.

Niffenegger's love of writing developed when she was a young girl, quietly spending her time writing and illustrating books as a hobby. Her wonderfully eccentric imaginativeness was in play from her earliest writing efforts. "My ‘first' novel was an epic about an imaginary road trip [sic] I went on with The Beatles," she explains on her website, "handwritten in turquoise marker, seventy pages long, which I wrote and illustrated when I was eleven."

Niffenegger's mini-magical mystery tour may have been her "first novel," but the first one to which the rest of the world would be privy came many years later. She had already established herself as a prominent artist whose work had been shown in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Library of Congress, and the Houghton Library at Harvard University when The Time Traveler's Wife was published in 2003. "I wanted to write about a perfect marriage that is tested by something outside the control of the couple," Niffenegger told bookbrowse.com. "The title came to me out of the blue, and from the title sprang the characters, and from the characters came the story."

The Time Traveler's Wife, a sci-fi romance about the mercurial time traveler Henry and Clare, the wife who patiently awaits his return to the present, became a sensation upon its publication. This thoroughly original love story captured mass praise from USA Today, The Washington Post, People Magazine, and The Denver Post, not to mention celebrity couple Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, who promptly purchased the rights to the book and are currently developing it into a motion picture.

Now that she had established herself as a talent to watch, Niffenegger finally had the opportunity to produce a book she would describe as "a fourteen-year labor of love." Three Incestuous Sisters: An Illustrated Novel, is a gorgeous, modern-gothic storybook about the love and rivalry shared between three women. With its minimal text, Niffenegger's chiefly uses her eerie illustrations to convey the sisters' story. Booklist summed up Three Incestuous Sisters quite succinctly by stating that "Niffenegger's grim yet erotic tale and stunningly moody gothic prints possess the sly subversion of Edward Gorey, the emotional valence of Edvard Munch, and her very own brilliant use of iconographic pattern, surprising perspective, and tensile line in the service of a delectable, otherworldly sensibility."

Now, Niffenegger is turning her attentions back to straight prose as she works on a new novel. "It's called Her Fearful Symmetry," she revealed in an online chat with the Hennepin County Library. "It's set in London's Highgate Cemetery, and features as many of the cliches of 19th century fiction as I can summon." Amazingly, with such a wide variety of styles in her still budding body of work -- from science fiction to fairy tale to her impending period piece -- Audrey Niffenegger's books still share a strong sense of unity, a distinctly peculiar and particular vision. "The thing that unites all my work is narrative," she said on her website. "I'm interested in telling stories, and I'm interested in creating a world that's recognizable to us as ours, but is filled with strangeness and slight changes in the rules of the universe."

Good To Know

In our interview, Niffenegger shared some fun facts about herself:

"My current job is teaching graduate students how to write, print type on letterpresses, and create limited-edition books by hand. I work for Columbia College's Center for Book and Paper Arts in Chicago. I helped to found the Center, and it is the center of my universe nine months of the year. The other three months I try to ignore the phone, and I do my own work."

"I make art. Readers can see some of it at Printworks Gallery in Chicago. They have a web site: printworkschicago.com."

"Almost all of the places mentioned in my book are real places that you can visit. The Newberry Library is open to people who have research projects that fit the collections of the Newberry. Vintage Vinyl is a real record store in Evanston. The Aragon Ballroom, South Haven, Michigan, Bookman's Alley, The Berghoff -- I heartily recommend them all."

"I collect taxidermy, skeletons, books (of course), comics (mostly Raw and post-Raw independent stuff, no superheroes). I only collect small taxidermy, no bison heads, my place isn't that big. I don't own a TV. I spend a lot of time hanging out with my boyfriend, Christopher Schneberger, and attending Avocet concerts (Avocet is the band Chris plays drums with). We travel a lot; my new book is set in London, so there's lots of research to do. I garden, in a rather haphazard way. I also enjoy finding, buying, and wearing vintage clothes. All in all, it's a pleasant life."

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    1. Hometown:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 13, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      South Haven, Michigan
    1. Education:
      B.F.A., School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1985; M.F.A., Northwestern University, 1991

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