The artist at the opening of Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger, 2013
Unlike her novels, Niffenegger’s artist’s books reveal their stories primarily in images, with text playing a minor role. The artist has a penchant for fairy tales, surrealism, and the macabre, which she draws upon to craft powerful and unusual narratives.
The heroines of Niffenegger’s visual novels are usually young women. They are brave, daring, and independent. Sometimes the artist invents their adventures. At other times, she takes inspiration from personal experiences, identifying with her characters’ trials, attempting to solve their problems, and celebrating their victories.
Niffenegger holds an MFA from Northwestern University and currently divides her time between Chicago and London. She is a professor in the Fiction Writing department at Columbia College Chicago. She has also taught printmaking and book arts at the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, which she helped found.
Audrey Niffenegger often confronts themes of mortality and the passage of time in an attempt to startle her viewers into appreciating “the fleeting nature of our selves.” Skeletons feature prominently in her macabre images because, as the artist describes, they are part of a “vocabulary for expressing ideas about permanence and the ephemeral.”
For her 2007 exhibition Elegy for Isabella Blow,...
Niffenegger conceived, printed, and handbound The Adventuress, her first visual novel, when she was a 21-year-old student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The most surreal of Niffenegger’s visual novels, The Adventuress tells a story of impossible love, loss, betrayal, and death.
This tale of a nameless adventuress, who was created by an alchemist, is typical of Niffenegger’s works in its...