La Petite Mort: An Interview With Natalie Krim

The first thing you notice when you meet Natalie Krim is her voice. She has the dialect and pitch of 1940s movie star and the demeanor too. It’s a cool glamour, a poised glamour that is as sharp as a razor blade. Perhaps the Hollywood lineage isn’t too far off – her grandfather was a Hollywood portrait photographer who shot everyone from ---- to ---. Her grandfather is also most likely where she gets her creative gene. Krim’s illustrations, which are highly erotic in nature in all manner of repose, self-pleasuring, orgiastic and mellifluously sensual, are feminine and delicate, like she is, but hint at darker overtones. They are a world all her own, alter-egos, characters from the unconscious, coquettish nymphs, desirous, wanting and wanton – they recall a world created by Henry Darger or the illustrations of Gustav Klimt. Before her current show on view now at Little Big Man Gallery, we got a chance to ask her a few questions about her work, sexuality and secrets.

AUTRE: I want to talk about your origins, and where you started to pick up your first sort ofinspirations and motivations as an artist. Both your parents were artists right?

KRIM: My mom is, and my dad was a mortgage banker. So complete opposite. But he always wanted his kids to be artists and creative.

AUTRE: Was there a photographer in the family?

KRIM: Oh my grandfather! He had a photography studio in Los Angeles that my mom grew up in. And he would shoot all the old Hollywood movie stars, and that was kind of her upbringing.

AUTRE: Amazing, did you ever get to meet him?

KRIM: I didn’t, he died before both my brother and I were born. But I grew up looking at all ofhis photographs and it was very much a part of my upbringing.

AUTRE: So basically he was a glamour photographer that would take pictures of the stars?

KRIM: Yeah, we have photographs from all over.

AUTRE: Did you get to see any of his photography?

KRIM: Oh yeah we have a ton of it. Clark Gable, everyone. It’s very interesting.

AUTRE: Did they encourage you to make art? Or did you know that you wanted to be an artist at an early age?

KRIM: Not until only this year would I even call myself an artist. It was never a thing growing up. It was just how we were taught to express ourselves. I mean I always had journals and my mom would wake me up at 3 o’clock in the morning to watch a Channel runway show. It was just a part of our upbringing. I didn’t go to art school.

AUTRE: Can you remember the first drawing you ever made?

KRIM: I don’t know the first drawing, but I do have a drawing from preschool of a panda that the teacher wrote “you should have put more effort into it”. I felt like she was such an asshole.

AUTRE: So it wasn’t an erotic panda?

KRIM: (laughs) It wasn’t an erotic panda. I remember I used to draw girls as rectangles, that was my first go at it.

AUTRE: When did you discover your style?

KRIM: I started drawing the girls that I draw after a breakup. I hadn’t really been creating anything up until that point. It was just a way for me to express myself, and I just had so much fun. Then I started dating an artist who really just pushed me to keep at it, and kind of taught me to wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is draw.

AUTRE: Your persona is perhaps one of the most interesting things about your art. It seems like you’ve developed a persona, because you’ve seemed to take on the characters in your artwork. Is that something that happened over time?

KRIM: Well they aren’t really characters, they’re really self-portraits. So I don’t think of my work as work, because it’s just how I write a diary. It’s all of my experiences, it’s my relationships with lovers, or myself. So I don’t really see a disconnect - it’s just the same.

AUTRE: Do you think your work is feminist in nature? Or is it purely feminine? Do you think about the politicalaspect?

KRIM: I don’t think about it at all. I think it’s just feminine. There’s so many female artists right now that are so focused on just sexuality, and there’s so many other women’s rights that I wish had a little bit more attention. Like education and things like that. I feel like just because I’m a female artist I get classified as super feminist. And I am a feminist, but it has nothing to do with my work. I’m not trying to make a statement with it, I’m just showing you my life.

AUTRE: Do you think that these days people have a hard time understanding sex? Or that pornography especially has tainted our ideal of a positive sexual lifestyle?

KRIM: I find that only in America, I don’t find that in European cultures or other places. I feel like pornography has created almost a violence that goes along with sexuality, or just adisconnect that when you’re with a lover you have to act a certain way or say a certain thing. You’re kind of missing just being with the person. I’m not blaming that totally on pornography though, I know it’s an individual way to be intimate with someone.

AUTRE: Maybe it’s about sex education being so lacking that people grow up and have this weird idea of what it is? You must get a lot of unsavory messages with people who confuse your work.

KRIM: Oh my god I could show you, I have like 50 dick pics in my inbox.

AUTRE: La petite mort. It’s such a poetic way to describe an orgasm. Why do you think the female orgasm is such a mystery to people?

KRIM: I mean I can only speak for myself, but I think as women there’s that saying “disease to please” like you’re so focused on your lover that you don’t put yourself first or you may feel guilty about having pleasure. Or you’re afraid to express yourself sometimes. I just know from growing up that when you know what you want you’re able to communicate that. But often times if you’re casually sleeping with people maybe you don’t say that all the time. Or know how your body works.

AUTRE: It’s a great title for a show because it can mean so many things.

KRIM: It is the small death. For me, most of this work is a closure for me for a certain period of time. It’s a death on my train of thought on pleasing people.

AUTRE: What’s next after the show?

KRIM: I would like to explore making work on a larger scale. Maybe exploring different parts of my life and not sharing just the erotic side of it. It depends on if I fall in love soon because then it’ll be all about that.

AUTRE: Do you think people pigeon-hole you into this sort of erotic illustration?

KRIM: I mean my background is in lingerie. I’ve studied all types of eroticism, and fetish. I’ve been studying that since I was 15, so that is a very big part of me. I think at this point I would like to tap into other formats.

AUTRE: Who are some of your biggest influences in that world, especially in fetish?

KRIM: That’s a good question. I really am inspired by people not in the erotic world right now. I’m super inspired by Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton. I think I’m more inspired by women and their strengths and not so much artists as erotic artists but more of a personality or related experiences I could share with somebody. 

Natalie Krim's first LA solo show "because I love you but you're not here" is on view now at Little Big Man Gallery, 1427 E. 4th Street Unit 2 Los Angeles CA. This interview was originally published in Autre's LOVE ISSUE, which is available in print here. text and interview by Oliver Maxwell Kupper. photographs by Eric Morales