Feminism and Strength in All Fur 1
Natalie Frank’s, All Fur 1 is an interpretative art drawing with its theme centering on the Brothers Grimm German tale “Allerleirauh.” This work was created on arches paper with gouache and chalk pastel, and measures 22×30 inches. It is a part of a collection of thirty-six drawings done from 2011-2014 by this native Austin artist. Frank was born in 1980 and presently lives in New York City. Six pieces from the collection have been donated to the Blanton Museum, and the rest, including, All Fur 1 are part of a private collection. (Frank, Natalie). The invention and fantasy theme is evident throughout all the drawings, but the piece, All Fur 1, is the best example of feminism and strength from the Grimms’ All Fur story.
There are three characters in the drawing; they range from a donkey head on a female body, an elf-like woman with a dress, and a naked blonde woman. These characters represent the princess from the Grimm story as well as her transitions in the story. The number three is significant, and is seen in the characters, the three dresses, gifts; and events that took place with the king from “Allerleirauh.”
The Grimm fairy tales were written between the years of 1812-1857, All-Kinds-of-Fur or “Allerleirauh” came out of Germany (“Brothers Grimm Allerleirauh”). The key scene depicted in this drawing represents the princess and her vulnerabilities to her abusive father, the king. Three objects represent female sexual intercourse in the story, just as there are three characters in the work. The cloak of animal skins is used for the princess’ escape from the king and is represented by the use of a donkey’s head on the top of a spread eagled vagina– the ultimate sexual vulnerability. The cloak of animal skins is also symbolic of protection against sexual intercourse (“Brothers Grimm Allerleirauh”). In the story, as well as the drawing, the princess is vulnerable to her father’s wishes to marry her, and make her queen after the queen mother dies. Three is again symbolic here; the king gives the princess gifts of three dresses–one of which is shown on the woman to the right in the drawing. The naked bodies not only show the transition from youth to womanhood, but they depict vulgarity in the female form standing left to the donkey. The princess is transitioning from youth, and emphasis is placed on her virginity. The blonde woman is also depicting the real beauty and rawness that was created from the mother, who the princess embodies completely. The king is obsessed with his daughter’s blonde hair, and is aware that she is the only woman in the kingdom that parallels her mother’s beauty. The depth behind this drawing’s underlying meaning expresses Frank’s knowledge of femininity and the strength that it creates.
The key themes of invention in this drawing are beauty in the female form, and a woman’s bright strength of character. Similarly, this is what Natalie Frank said about her work from an article in The Wall Street Journal, “I started making drawings that could reflect these characters’ vulnerabilities and strengths.” Ultimately, All Fur 1 fits into the invention and fantasy category of theme, with its take on a fairy tale and her creative use of beauty and character.
The shapes that are used in the work are organic, and range from human body parts to the donkey head atop a virgin’s bed. The vast color hues that were used give the drawing add depth and shape as well. The light is shown from the shading that creates texture and brings out the vibrant chalk color. Highlights are visible, and are used on the muscles, the stomach and breasts of the woman’s body. Foreshortening was used on the bed figure and adds a 3D quality to the work. There is relieved symmetry being used with color and shapes on the blanket, and the sizes of the characters are not perfectly proportioned. This was done purposefully, as Frank states, “My figures are visual puzzles that intrigue me because they play with, or pervert, my sense of depth.” (Crow, Kelly). This distortion creates massive visual interest, and thus makes it very hard to look away. There is also negative space used on the blanket and behind the donkey’s head, which adds more texture, space, and mass to the work.
The expression lines on the woman’s face show ambivalence (perhaps a wasted youth in an abusive family environment). The face is lightened in contrast to the dark color palette that is used on the donkey face. This was done to showcase the difference in innocence that is lost during sexual intercourse. It could also represent the dark and hidden abuse of an incestuous relationship. The hair is highlighted especially, and is symmetrical on both women on the left and right by use of wispy lines, and white saturating color. This use of coloring on both women makes them symmetrical, if not identical, and tells the story of the mother and daughter well. The lines on the hands of the donkey are unique; it is hard to tell if they are from the same person or animal-like in nature. One seems to look more like a human-donkey-hoof and the other is more natural. The line on the right leg is also darker and more pronounced; the leg and right side of the stomach display hair, this could be in relation to the dual anamorphic being, or Frank may be trying to show the transition of puberty in the female body.
This work conveys many aspects of human vulnerability and the beauty of the female body. It re-tells the story of the Brothers Grimm dark fairy tale All-Kinds-of-Furs. Frank is not only re-telling this story, but is illustrating her own interpretation and feelings about feminism and character. The subject matter of this collection is hard to fully understand without knowing its focus is aimed on famous heroines, and their backgrounds from Grimm literature. All Fur 1 is grotesque, sexually explicit and emphasizes women’s bodies and genitalia. It deals with incest and an abusive king father that is obsessed with his daughter’s beauty. The main underlying motivation behind it seems to be this “familial dynamic” from the story, which, the artwork successfully conveys (Frank, Natalie). Frank has managed to centralize focus on these themes, and has done so in an inventive new way.
“Brothers Grimm Allerleirauh (All-Kinds-of-Fur): Summary and Analysis.” Schoolworkhelper.net. St. Rosemary Educational Institution. 2015. Web. 18 October 2015.
Crow, Kelly. “This Art Star believes in Fairy Tales.” Wsj.com. 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 17 October 2015.
Frank, Natalie. All Fur 1. 2011-14. Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin. blantonmuseum.org. Web. 17 October 2015.