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Natalie Frank: O
Natalie Frank and Lawrence Weschler in Conversation on
The Story of O

Published by Lucia Marquand 2018

Story of O - an erotic novel that shocked and aroused millions - was published in 1954 under the pseudonym Pauline Réage; many suspected the book, with its frank descriptions of bondage and desire, must have secretly been written by a man. The French intellectual Dominique Aury (born Anne Desclos, 1907-1998) came forward to reveal her identity in 1994 in an interview at the age of 86. She was the first women to write openly and explicitly about domination, submission, and sex.

Frank has been drawing and painting images that celebrate and explore the female erotic imagination for a decade. She was drawn to O because of its groundbreaking portrayal of complex female sexuality, an exploration which continues to provoke in art as in life. Prescient to our current moment, as women and others speak out about sexual violence and agency - this book champions individual choice and sex positive feminism. Written as a parody of pornography, one whose heroine undergoes physical and emotional transformation, O explores the boundaries of her own will, desire and self-possession.

Her journey of transcendence is one of choice, physical and emotional liberation, intertwined with fantasies of dominance and submission. This book is still contested by feminists as both an icon of sex positive writing and a tool of oppression. Frank hopes debate will spark conversation and bring both nuance and a voice to the ways in which we perceive our own and others' desire.

In a suite of fifteen drawings, in gouache and chalk pastel, and mixed media painting, Frank captures the psychological and sexual narratives of the book's key scenes. In The Pornographic Imagination (1967), Susan Sontag uses O to define the differences between art and pornography. This book is a fairy tale for the contemporary woman. Frank has spent the past years drawing unsanitized fairy tales in books: The Tales of the Brothers Grimm Drawings by Natalie Frank, Damiani, 2015; The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Princeton University Press, 2016; and her forthcoming book, The Island of Happiness: Madame D'Aulnoy, Princeton University Press, 2019.

The drawings will be shown on top of wallpaper Frank drew and designed with Marian Bantjes, produced by Flavorpaper, depicting women engaged in self-assured, daily acts. Accompanying the exhibition, there will be a fully illustrated publication, published by Lucia Marquand, with a conversation between author and former staff writer for The New Yorker, Lawrence Weschler and Frank.
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