This interview with artist Natalie Krim almost instantly became a steamy discussion about everyone’s favourite subject: S-E-X.
Which isn’t so very surprising—take a look at her work. It’s sexy. Really sexy. And while it was lovely to meet and chat with Natalie, I couldn’t escape the thought that this interview was completely unnecessary given that her work so boldly speaks for itself.
But we had a great conversation, and we did actually talk about other things unrelated to rolling in the hay, like where she’s from, how she got started, Skype sex, her lingerie collection, pornography, the C-word, etc., and you can read all about it once you’ve finished perusing her illustrations and had a cold shower.
Meet the beguiling Miss Krim.
Natalie, have you ever been to Australia?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia; I’m a big fan.
When did you come to Australia?
I used to stay in Australia on and off for years because I was dating somebody. I was always there. But I never went to Sydney; I was always in Melbourne. I guess I should say Melbin.
Good ol’ Melbin. How long ago was that?
I stopped going a year ago, but I went probably two to three times a year for three years, a couple of months each time. I would move there. I love it.
You’re in LA now, but are you from there originally?
I was from LA, and then I went to New York for eleven years, and I’ve been back in LA for a year and a half.
And you studied fashion design?
Yeah, I went to FIT in New York and I studied product development, I got my bachelor’s, and then I went to work in the fashion industry for a fashion forecasting company. I always worked in intimate apparel—which I still love—and then I kind of transferred into drawing.
You’ve got a huge vintage lingerie collection, right?
Yes, I do!
Where do you find vintage lingerie? And also, is it used stuff or just deadstock?
Some is stock, but a lot is used. I find it on eBay or in vintage stores all over the world. I started collecting when I was fifteen years old. I’m obsessed.
How much does vintage lingerie even go for? Is it expensive?
It can be really expensive. When I was in Paris I went to one of the beautiful flea markets they have over there and I wanted this corset and it was thousands of dollars…
Yeah! And they only took cash, and I thought, You have to be kidding me—who’s carrying around thousands of dollars to buy a corset at a flea market?
You know what I find really interesting about the idea of vintage lingerie?
It’s interesting that I find it acceptable that you buy beautiful, second-hand vintage lingerie and wear it…
But I would never in a million years buy a second-hand pair of men’s underpants. To me, that is completely unacceptable.
Different rules. It’s weird.
I had a lingerie business for a little while; I’d sell vintage lingerie or style it for shoots, and it was kind of a hard sell, you know? People thought twice about it. But it’s the same as a vintage dress—it’s just a little more intimate. Anyway, I love it.
Do people assume that because you draw erotic pictures you’re some sort of horn-bag sex maniac?
I think some people assume that about me, but I’m quite conservative, I think. I mean… I guess I’m free with it, but I’m not a crazy maniac. But it’s all relative, right? What’s crazy for you might not be for me and vice versa.
This is true. What do your mother and father think of your work?
Well, actually my mum is an artist, so she’s totally fine. I mean, sometimes she’s like, ‘Natalie, what are you doing?’ But at this point she loves it; she’s so supportive. My dad, he just recently passed away, but he was very supportive. We didn’t talk about it, though. But if I got a job or sold something or whatever he was proud of me.
That’s cool. Did you ever get embarrassed if they saw your work, though? Because I think if I was making really sexual art like you I’d be like, Oh, no, mum’s coming to the show tonight and she’s gonna see these pictures I drew…
I think in the beginning I did feel a bit embarrassed or ashamed that some family members would see this other side of me, but now I guess I just really own it, and my family knows, so you either kind of accept that this is a part of who I am, or you don’t. It’s not a huge deal to me. I think if you’re going to make work it should come from an honest place, and if it’s honest you can’t really apologise for that. You kinda have to own it.
Let me ask you this while we’re on the topic of parents—and, also, let me preface this by saying I know you’re not a sex expert, but… why is the thought of your parents having sexual intercourse so gross? They’re performing the very act that gave you and me life, but it’s totally gross. What is that?
I don’t know! It’s like we want to believe that our parents only did it that one time.
I don’t even like that they did it once. It’s disgusting.
I mean, it’s just life; everyone does it. But maybe we hold our parents to a different standard? I don’t know, I never think about it.
Exactly. No one does. It’s gross. Anyway, I’m sorry I took it there. Next question: how did you get started doing illustration?
Well, I’d just been through this breakup and I was sitting in my room, and I started drawing these girls. And I just thought they were so funny, the first girls I drew; they had a sense of humour and they made me laugh, and they were kind of part of a healing process for me.
From the breakup.
Yeah, from my relationship. And then my close friends, and even my brother, actually, said, ‘Oh, you should sell these!’ So I went to a little store in New York and they gave me a shot, and they sold really well. So I thought, This is a thing—this is a career. It happened very spontaneously.
Catbird in Williamsburg. They gave me my first opportunity and through that I got a lot of visibility, because Williamsburg has a lot of traffic and people from all over the place, so it was a good starting point.
Cool. And you work on old, old paper, correct?
Yes, I work on old ledger paper, mostly from the late 1800s and the 1920s.
I really like that. Do you buy it on eBay?
No—at antique stores or at flea markets. I like to feel the paper before I buy. I’m very specific.
Excellent. Now, your illustrations are, overall, very erotic, but in some of them the girls look sad.
Who are these girls and why are they sad sometimes? I’ve read that a few of them are you, but…
Oh, they’re all me; I mean… one hundred per cent, they’re all me. I communicate a lot with my drawings, and especially with my last relationship, which was long distance… It would be silly to assume that we’re going to be happy all of the time, and I think there’s a lot of sadness that comes with relationships, and the girls sometimes are sad because it was something I was going through.
How long were you in a long-distance relationship?
Three years. I would never do it again.
My girlfriend and I did long distance for a year. Long distance sucks. On the bright side, you do learn all about the whacky world of Skype sex.
I know! It becomes a major part of your life!
It really does.
But then when you finally see each other it’s always kind of magical, and you really have to treasure the time because it’s so short, you know.
I totally know.
Anyway, it is what it is.
I have another sex question.
And I know that pornography isn’t your arena, and I know you’re not a sex expert, but do you think pornography—because it’s so accessible now—do you think it’s dictating the way we have sex?
One hundred per cent.
I think so too! When I was growing up, the only pornography I had access to was, like, Playboy and stuff like that.
But one night last year I looked out my window and saw a couple in their early twenties in the building across the street having sex with the blinds up and—
My old apartment on East 3rd Street. Everyone on my side of the street must have been watching; it was crazy, but it didn’t look like normal sex: it looked like they were roleplaying, like they were having sex in a pornographic movie. It looked… fake.
I think that’s the effect the porn industry is having, and especially having access to it at such a young age…
And it’s gnarly stuff! I hadn’t even seen a naked woman till I was, like, seven. Imagine being seven and seeing the shit that’s on the internet now!
Right, but that’s where people are having their first sexual experiences these days, really. And then they think they have to act a certain way, or say certain things, or make certain noises…
And I think they’re really missing out, they’re not really listening to their partner or feeling and being in the moment. It’s…
It’s really depressing.
It is. I can always tell—well, I can’t always tell—but you kinda know when you’re with someone who watches a lot of porn…
Yeah. I don’t think porn is a positive thing. And I don’t know where we’re going to go from here, whether people are going to acknowledge that and step back a little.
Here’s hoping. Let’s get back to your work.
You know what I really like about your work?
It’s hard evidence that girls are as horny as, if not hornier than, men. I mean, I already knew that, obviously, but it’s nice to see a woman making erotic art; it’s a pleasant reminder that we’re the same species and we’re just as horny and dirty as each other. I like it.
Thanks! There’s such a stigma—and I don’t know if it’s lifting in our time, maybe it is—but there’s this stigma that girls have to be a certain way or should feel ashamed or be whatever being a ‘lady’ is. But we’re all human, and it’d be crazy to think that women don’t have the same urges.
I read that you do not like the word ‘slut’ because it’s this horrible label that a girl will receive just for having a healthy, enthusiastic attitude towards sex.
Wait, did I say that?
I think so.
I don’t remember saying it, but it’s true—I don’t like that word at all.
What about the other word?
You know, the really bad one. I can’t say it in front of you.
You can totally say it. Just say it.
The C word.
I love the C word! I’ll just say it—cunt.
I can’t believe you just said the C word.
But you’re an Australian.
Being called ‘cunt’ by an Australian to me is like being called ‘sweetheart’.
We say it a lot, don’t we.
You do, and I absolutely love it. But in America… I mean, I said it to a lady I rented a car from and now I’m not allowed to rent cars there anymore. But to me it’s not a big deal; I use it quite often, but I think that stems from spending time in Australia.
Cunt isn’t even an insult over here, you can just say it: ‘Can I fix you another sandwich, cunt?’
Yeah! And that’s how I feel it should be. It’s my favourite curse word. I don’t really curse that much, but I guess ‘cunt’ is my favourite.
We’ve gone way off track, and we’re going way over time. Last question: what’s next for Natalie Krim?
Okay, what’s next… Gosh, what is next? Okay, I’m working on a show; it’s an idea that involves more than just drawings—it incorporates sculpture and a little bit of film and stuff like that… I can’t give too much away, but it’s taking my drawings to another level.
Excellent. It was so nice to meet you!
It was nice to meet you, too!