National Museum of Women in the Arts opens Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger

National Museum of Women in the Arts presents Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger an exhibition on view June 21–Nov. 10, 2013, in this mid-career retrospective on view June 21–Nov. 10, 2013, Niffenegger reveals a mysterious, strange and whimsical world, both real and imagined, through 239 paintings, drawings, prints and book art.

Frontispiece from The Three Incestuous Sisters. Aquatint, 1985–98, 12 ⅞ x 16 x 2 ¼ (book); 12 ¼ x 30 in. (aquatints). Edition 10/10, Collection of Audrey Niffenegger, Chicago, Illinois.

Frontispiece from The Three Incestuous Sisters. Aquatint, 1985–98, 12 ⅞ x 16 x 2 ¼ (book); 12 ¼ x 30 in. (aquatints). Edition 10/10, Collection of Audrey Niffenegger, Chicago, Illinois.


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

“Niffenegger’s work as a visual artist may be less familiar to the public than her fiction, but it is an equally marvelous discovery,” said Director Susan Fisher Sterling. “Our museum’s collection has more than 1,000 unique and limited edition artist’s books, including Niffenegger’s first visual novel The Adventuress (1983–85), which was purchased in 1994. We are so pleased to have the opportunity to share more of Audrey’s mystery and mastery with new audiences.”

Although Niffenegger is well known as the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, she has also had many solo exhibitions in the United States and abroad. Her art has been exhibited by Printworks Gallery in Chicago since 1987, and she helped to found the Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts. Her most recent visual novel, Raven Girl (2012), has been adapted into a ballet by choreographer Wayne McGregor to be performed May 24–June 8, 2013, at the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden.

The protagonists of Niffenegger’s narrative art are usually women. The artist understands the psychology and motives that drive women to unpredictable encounters, provoking powerful emotions and unfulfilled desires. Her heroines are occasionally doomed, they misbehave, but they are always daring, passionate and independent.

The exhibition Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger is organized around three themes: Adventures in Bookland, States of Mind and In Dreamland.

For more information about NMWA, visit www.nmwa.org

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