Sometimes artists paint on a blank canvas. For others, the canvas — like the figures and colors that adorn it — is part of the artwork proper.
Artist and model Natalie Krim, who uses vintage 1800s notebook paper and found materials as the backdrop for her art, falls into the latter camp. Her aesthetic, like her modeling, is sensitive, vulnerable, innocent and erotic.
You can see it firsthand tonight through Monday at La Rosa Society, a show that features some heavy hitters (Terry Richardson, Wes Lang) alongside relative newcomers like Krim at the Project Space downtown. You can also see her at this weekend’s L.A. Art Book Fair at MOCA, where her work will be on display at the Paper Work NYC booth.
We chatted with her about her creative process, antiquing and her vintage lingerie collection — which numbers in the thousands.
InsideHook: How does using vintage materials affect your creative process? Do you draft your ideas on paper and then transfer them over, or do you go straight to the final canvas?
Natalie Krim: Sometimes I do that. Sometimes I will have an idea, work it out and then transfer it over, just in case I’m running low on the (vintage) paper I prefer. Right now I’m pretty well stocked, so I’m good for several rounds of drawings. But I appreciate the hunt.
IH: When you say vintage paper, is there a certain year that you’re looking for or is it more by feel?
NK: I definitely go by feel. Some older paper is a little thicker than I prefer. But it’s mostly from the late 1800s to the 1940s. It’s actually not that hard to find. There are so many journals out there and they’re mostly unused.
IH: Do you notice recurring themes in paper history?
NK: There are a lot of stocking lists. So how much livestock there is, or how much something like ink costs. I really love when I find a journal of drawings that maybe a little boy or a little girl did. It was like their parents’ way of keeping records, and there are little scribbles inside them.
IH: Where do you find these?
NK: I go to the flea market on Wednesdays, and if I’m lucky, someone will have them at their booth. I go to antique stores. I collect many things, and I always keep my eyes open.
IH: You also collect vintage lingerie? How did you get into that? I mean, I wouldn’t collect men’s underwear...
NK: I actually have some men’s pieces that I’ve collected, like little union suits from the war that I’ll sleep in sometimes.
IH: From the war? Which war? The Civil War?
NK: World War II. I have one from World War II with the little buttons on the bottom. It’s all cotton, a little one piece. It’s very comfortable and I wear it to sleep. I recommend everyone have one in their closet.
IH: How did you go from enthusiast to collector?
NK: My mom gave me three pieces from the 1920s when I was 15 years old, and I fell in love with the silhouettes and the colors and then the time period. It became a hobby. I had a vintage lingerie company for a little bit, which I ended because I could not bear to part with any of the pieces, and that made for bad business. I loved how you could take a piece of lingerie from any point in history and really understand a woman’s role during that time. You get a sense of who she might have been, or what restrictions she may have had imposed on her.
IH: How many pieces do you have?
NK: A lot. Hundreds. Thousands. I don’t know. A lot.
IH: Given that the fabric is probably delicate, how do you maintain them?
NK: All of the pieces are delicate. Right now I have them all in a storage unit at the right temperature. But I usually have them out and about. I’m trying to preserve them a little bit at this point; they’re vacuum sealed in bags with tissue paper. I hope that’s the right way to go about it. Otherwise I’m screwed.
IH: Where do you go to find these?
NK: All over and at great lengths. But I’m not going to reveal my sources. I have a couple of people that have extremely large collections, way larger than mine will ever be, and I go to them. They will sometimes sell some of their goodies off. It can be online. Can be in the Americas. Can be Australia. I go all over.
IH: Have you been approached by movie studios or anyone that needs them for wardrobes?
NK: I was approached by a very large designer in New York, and they rented some pieces of my collection for a little bit. It was nice to have them in good hands. They were used for silhouette inspiration for runway. They handled them very well, so I would do that again.
IH: Do you ever wear them?
NK: Not right now. I used to lounge around in them. But I don’t do it that much because I’m aware of how fragile they are, and how hard they are to find, and you can’t replace them ... so I’m a bit more cautious.
Main image courtesy of Live FAST Mag