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Artist of the Week: The Erotic Feminism of Natalie Krim [NSFW]

Natalie Krim’s erotic self-portraiture depicts one’s emotions through intimacy, experience, and self-love. Her intimate drawings, though seemingly graphic in content, align more with the innocence and purity of raw emotion. The artist touches on her knowledge of lingerie and history to create depictions of life through love. Krim, who is currently based in Los Angeles, first learned about femininity and power as a young girl indulging in pop culture. Her work not only references the past conceptually, but physically as well; her canvas of choice is stationery from the 1800s.

With her first solo-show in Brooklyn in 2013, and her most recent solo show, “BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, BUT YOU’RE NOT HERE”, in Los Angeles in 2016, Krim has not only shown coast-to-coast but around the world in Lisbon and Sydney as well. Her drawings have also transcended into other objects like furniture and clothing. Most recently, she’s collaborated with Calvin Klein and Hache and was listed as one of the most inspiring artists this year in VogueWorld 2018.

Milk sat down with Krim to hear more on what she believes to be the duties of an artist, her advice about growing up, and femininity in general.

What peaked your interest in eroticism as a young girl? Can you tell us a bit more about your background in lingerie?

As a little girl, I remember my mom showing me Madonna’s “ Like a Prayer” video on VH1. I was too young to understand eroticism or sexuality or why that video was,
and still is, so important, but I could recognize power and I associated Madonna with power. The black slip she wore in the video with her bra straps falling off her shoulder was imprinted in my mind. Looking back, I now see how I associated women, even Clara Bow in the 1920’s, who were comfortable wearing lingerie, as powerful and free: two things I desperately wanted to be. Being painfully shy growing up, I looked to these women as examples, almost as a “How-To” guides to obtain power, to be seen, and to be heard. I spent fifteen years studying in depth the cultural significance of undergarments and how unlike any other piece of clothing, one could trace lingerie as a tool to understand a woman’s place in society.

For example, the juxtaposition of the tight-lacing corset of a Victorian woman and the restrictions placed upon her are wildly different than the silk bralettes and tap shorts adorned by the young flapper who could dance on tables and down a bottle of champagne. I collected lingerie for half my life and am proud of my collection, but as I’ve grown and found a different kind of power within myself, I don’t place the same importance on eroticism as I once did. I am more concerned with the power of women as a whole, which does, of course, include our erotic power, but it is so much more than that and that is what I find beautiful and inspiring.               

You told Live FAST magazine, that our relationships with ourselves “[deserve] the same attention we would give a playground crush.” Why do you think we are taught to love others before ourselves?  

Throughout history, women have been expected to be caregivers. Our mothers, our grandmothers, our great ancestors – they are all examples of women who at one point in time dedicated their lives to taking care of family and partners before their own needs. With each generation though, wee see more support and encouragement to put ourselves first. I can’t help but wonder if on a cellular level, we as woman still carry some of the weight of the generations before us, which is that heavy guilt to put everyone else’s needs before ourselves. The more women that come together to care for each other and listen to each other, the more we open ourselves up to a bigger and greater love. When we are at a place of inner strength and wholeness I know it is possible to come from a place of love that serves both our inner connection and outer relationships.

What advice would you give to girls that are struggling to feel beautiful?

For young girls who are struggling to feel beautiful, I would tell them to fight for their passions, be confident with their voices, and find beauty in the process of their darkest and lightest times. I believe this will give young girls a beauty that cannot be taken away or compromised.

How has being an artist helped you on your own journey of vulnerability and expression?

As far as being an artist goes, and I believe this to be true for most creatives; one learns how great the shared human connection can be. Most of us will experience love, heartbreak, death, loss, and pain at some point in our lives, and if we are able to create from those experiences, it doesn’t just heal the creator, but gives hope to the viewer.

What does being a lady mean to you? 

To be a woman is to be all.

 You told Autre that although you’re a feminist, it has nothing to do with your work – do you think that artists today are often pressured into making their work stand for something political?

I wouldn’t be able to do the work that I create if it were not for all the women before me that fought for my right to express myself, and for all the women fighting now for others around the world to have that same freedom. It is not a subject I take lightly, and looking at my work, I know that the feminist movement has everything to do with what I create. I believe that artists have a responsibility to reflect on the culture in which we live and the social movements that are taking place. The current state of the world demands attention and it is not only the artist’s responsibility, but a citizen’s responsibility to be knowledgeable and driven by their convictions. I do not support complicity and it is time for all of us to take a stand, educate, and make change.  

What art materials do you always have on hand?

My Imagination.

A lot of your work and life is inspired by the past; short stories from the 1920-1970’s, vintage lingerie, you even sometimes draw on stationery from the 1800s. Why is the past important to you?

My current work is inspired by ideas greater than myself to bring attention to issues that I feel compassionate about.   

Your work is a reflection of the love you’ve seen and experienced in your life. I imagine it’d be hard to choose a favorite memory, but is there one that sticks out to you today?

I am grateful for all the love and relationships that have ever taken a spotlight in my work.  

You’ve gotten quite a bit of press over the past couple years; why do you think your art resonates with so many people?

I can only hope that it resonates with people because it comes from an honest place.

What is one question you wish you were asked?

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou

One day I’d like to share my story.

That being said, why haven’t you told your story and how do you plan on telling it?

I would like to allow time, for now, and true understanding of all the happenings and experiences, so I can represent these images or words clearly and in confidence.

Images courtesy of Natalie Krim

Stay tuned to Milk for more artists on the rise.

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