Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger

Illustrated print from a book shows three light-skinned women, lying side by side, asleep in a bed. The print is all in shades of grey except for the long hair of the women, depicted in yellow, red, and black, flowing atop the blanket under which they sleep.
Jun 21 to Nov 10, 2013

A fantastic, strange, and mysterious world, real and imagined, is featured in this mid-career retrospective of artist and best-selling author Audrey Niffenegger.

Paintings, drawings, prints, and book art—239 pieces in total—reflect her captivating narrative talent and her explorations of life, mortality, and magic. Her narratives give insight into universal experiences such as the need for love, the inevitability of death, and the peculiar sensation of the passage of time.

The exhibition is organized around three themes:

  • “Adventures in Bookland” focuses on Niffenegger’s artist’s books and visual novels;
  • “States of Mind” presents the artist’s self-portraits; and
  • “In Dreamland” explores the darker corners of the human heart and mind, often revealed in dreams and fantasies.

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 artist says, “We should look carefully at ourselves and things around us, and not be oblivious to life as it passes us by. I use fantastic elements in my art to startle people into noticing and paying attention.”

A surreal portrait shows a light-skinned woman with blazing red hair, piercing grey eyes, and red lips. Set against a vibrant blue background, the woman gazes pointedly at the viewer, surrounded by 28 floating eyeballs.

Audrey Niffenegger, Observation, 2010; Collection of Larry and Laura Gerber, Highland Park, Illinois

Exhibition Sponsors

Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger has been organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Major exhibition funding has been given by Margaret M. Johnston, an anonymous donor, and the friends of Audrey Niffenegger.