“Natalie Frank: Unbound” to open at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art January 2022

“Natalie Frank: Unbound” to open at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art January 2022

Frank’s feminist drawings reimagine some of the best-known and most controversial literary narratives.

KANSAS CITY, MO—Spanning a decade of Brooklyn, New York-based artist Natalie Frank’s (Austin, Texas, born 1980) feminist drawing practice, “Natalie Frank: Unbound” will present work from the artist’s four major drawing series, each of which is the result of Frank’s rigorous research.

“Fairy tales captivated me because many began as women’s oral tales that articulated female desires and fears,” said Frank. “Yet over time their authorship was erased and their voices neutered. I restore the identities of these overlooked female artists and transform their stories to create contemporary, paradigm-breaking female heroines.”

Frank’s practice, in dialogue with worldwide conversations about agency, power, and gender continues to raise questions of equity and advocacy for women’s voices.

In “Tales of the Brothers Grimm” (2011–14), Frank presents the unvarnished original nineteenth century versions of these tales as images that celebrate female agency by elevating heroines and villainesses alike. Expanding on the history of illustrated books, figurative painting, and personal and political narrative, Frank’s drawings comprise the largest collection of Grimm’s fairy tales ever portrayed by an artist. In 2019, Ballet Austin commissioned the production of “Grimm Tales,” a full-length ballet based on Frank’s drawings, for which she served as artistic director, bringing three tales to life, creating sets, costumes and animations from new and existing drawings.

With her characteristically fluid gestural marks, Frank adds visual drama to these tales of revolt and transformation. In each of her twenty black-and-white gouache-on-paper drawings, she represents a key scene from Jack Zipes’s anthology “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (2017).

In a suite of gouache and chalk pastel drawings, Frank reclaims the feminist “Story of O” (2017–18) and gives image to the psychosexual narratives of the book’s key scenes. In masterfully carnal compositions, she depicts O, the female protagonist, consensually engaging in scenarios of physical submission, domination, love, lust and sexual freedom. This series deepens Frank’s exploration into intertwined representations of identity and desire, laying bare the power structures and practices surrounding the complicated sexuality of female bodies.

Finally, Frank’s drawings of “Madame d’Aulnoy’s” (2019–20) shrewd heroines are anything but conventional. She presents the author’s fantastical stories through a complex layering of color, form, material, and gesture. Frank’s visual contradictions—combinations of abstraction and figuration—parallel d’Aulnoy’s female protagonists, who, by embodying both evil and virtuosity, present a nuanced understanding of female identity.

“Frank’s deep dive into literature is coupled with the practice of driving these conversations forward with her eloquent layering of imagery and subjects explored through a feminist lens,” said Erin Dziedzic, one of the curators of the exhibition. “She is moving the needle through her work with historical literature and her commitment to championing female voices both as the authors and subjects of their own experiences.”

“Natalie Frank: Unbound” has been organized by Kemper Museum and Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) and co-curated by Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs at Kemper Museum and Leah Kolb, curator of exhibitions at MMoCA. The exhibition premiered at MMoCA in Summer 2021 and will be on view at Kemper Museum of Art from January 28–May 15, 2022.

IMAGE CREDITS (left to right): Natalie Frank, (American, born 1980) “All Fur III,” from Tales of the Brothers Grimm, 2011–14, gouache and chalk pastel on paper, 30 x 22 inches. Private Collection. © Natalie Frank. Photo: Farzad Owrang; “Belle-Belle V” from “Madame d’Aulnoy” 2019–20, gouache and chalk pastel on paper,
30 x 22 inches. Collection of Shari Siadat. © Natalie Frank. Photo: Farzad Owrang. “Lucian of Samosata, ‘Eucraetes and Pancrates’ (c. 170 CE)” from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” 2016, gouache on paper,13¼ x 8¾ inches 30 x 22 inches. Private Collection. © Natalie Frank. Photo: Farzad Owrang.“Story of O XV” from “Story of O” 2019–20, gouache and chalk pastel on paper,30 x 20 inches. Collection of Kathleen and Chris Loughlin. © Natalie Frank. Photo: Coke O’Neal.



Louise Forster
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO
816.457.6132 (direct)


Located in Kansas City, MO, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art exhibits, collects, and educates in a free and welcoming environment for all. The museum’s growing Permanent Collection aims to reflect the vitality, complexity, and unfolding patterns within modern and contemporary art and culture. Special exhibitions, installations, lectures, and workshops, as well as youth, teen, and intergenerational programs provide resources for communities to engage with the issues of our time, derive inspiration, discover outlets for self-expression and dialogue, learn directly from living artists, and bring deeper meaning to their lives through modern and contemporary art. Admission, programs, and parking are always free.

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Access the exhibition media kit here.