We're honored to have collaborated with Natalie Frank in 2023 to release a series of artworks alongside the launch of the artist’s book The Wounded Storyteller: The Traumatic Tales of E.T.A. Hoffman, published by Yale University Press.
The Wounded Storyteller celebrates the legacy of E.T.A. Hoffman, German writer of beloved magical realist classics like the Nutcracker and the Sandman. A fully-illustrated art book with drawings by Frank on each page, we collaborated with the artist to create a limited edition series of six prints, accompanied by a special hand-finished Collector's Edition, inspired by the artist's remarkable visuals in The Wounded Storyteller.
Following its release, we asked Natalie a few questions about fairytales, balance, and text.
What are your earliest memories of engaging with fairytales?
My father read to me every night as a child! Fairy tales were certainly a part of this, and other books engaging in fantasy like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Your new book, The Wounded Storyteller: The Traumatic Tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann, features drawings that became the basis for our recent collaboration. While many people are familiar with Hoffmann’s Nutcracker, I’d love to hear more about how his other stories influenced you and what ultimately compelled you to bring the book into existence.
I have been working with the scholar Jack Zipes for the past ten years. After we finish each book, I always say what’s next? He knows that I am especially interested in feminist tales and Magic Realism. Hoffmann’s dark worlds about trauma and the experience of being alive are rich with magical characters, transformation and advocacy for the power of the imagination. All of these things resonate with me!
Your body of work is really an entire world onto itself — from drawings and paintings to set design, ceramics, books… You seem wonderfully comfortable with experimenting and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Do you ever experience pressure to define yourself as a certain type of artist?
I have always let the work guide me, for better or worse! When things flow into each other organically, you never know where you will end up. After a decade of drawing and working in books and performance, I am turning back to oil painting and portraiture, and I couldn’t be happier. I always take something from a specific media and bring it to the next project.
Much of your imagery seems to emerge from a liminal space — certain elements ground the viewer in “reality” but they’re often spun alongside an abstracted netherworld. How do you tap into your unconscious imagination? What is your relationship to your dreams like?
The question might be, how do I tap into reality? And what do we mean by reality, anyways. Because I have extreme synesthesia, I have always experienced things differently than I suspect others have, tying together numbers, letters, colors, opera and dance with painting, as well as narrative in literature. I probably live more in the netherworld, though for me, distinguishing the two can prove difficult.
Can you describe your experience hand-finishing the prints for Hoffmann’s Tales: Collector’s Edition? Were you surprised by anything that emerged?
It was great fun and felt like a microcosm of making a more involved painting. It reminded me how much I love to paint.
Considering how much you work alongside text, how does language factor into your creativity? Is writing a part of your practice, as well?
I love to read and writers are most of my close friends. I find the impetus to tell stories, in whatever form, resonant. The best jokes I have heard come from George Saunders, Samuel Beckett, and J.M. Coetzee.
In addition to our network of collectors and enthusiasts, we have a huge community of artists, ranging from established to emerging to aspiring. Do you have any advice you’d share with artists early in their careers?
Follow your intuition and creativity, wherever it may lead. Everything else just comes and goes. Invest in good people who believe in your work.
Natalie Frank • Artwork from The Wounded Storyteller