Whitehot Magazine

By Women, For All: Interview with Her Clique Founder Izabela Depczyk and Contributing Artist Natalie Frank

Izabela Depczyk, founder of Her Clique, courtesy of Her Clique.

By CORI HUTCHINSON, December 2020

Her Clique, an expanding, inclusive online platform now featuring exclusive print editions by artists Zoë Buckman, Alonsa Guevara, and Natalie Frank, was founded by Izabela Depczyk in September 2020 with the three goals of elevating women artists, supporting non-profits, and making art more easily collectible by a wider audience. Through carefully recorded and digitized studio visits, each artist is given space to describe her practice in her own words. I am grateful to have spoken with both Izabela Depczyk, founder, and Natalie Frank, contributing artist, about their respective involvement with Her Clique.  

CORI HUTCHINSON: Could you please speak briefly about yourself, your background, and how you manifested this project? 

IZABELA DEPCZYK: I spent the past few years working in the art industry, mostly focusing on art & tech and art & media. While I really enjoyed my experiences in both fields, I was yearning to be more involved in work directly with artists and this is how Her Clique came about. I chose to focus on women, because female empowerment and representation are issues which are very close to my heart. I also wanted to address the perception of art collecting as a somewhat “prestigious” hobby, hoping to open it up to a broader audience, particularly among the younger demographics. I also believe that all businesses have a responsibility towards their community, that’s why it was important that Her Clique has the charitable component built into the business model, with a part of all sale proceeds always benefitting a non-profit organization of the artists’ choice. 

CH: What are the founding goals of Her Clique?  

ID: Our mission is split into three main goals – promoting women artists, supporting vital non-profits and making art more accessible to a larger audience.

CH: How does this digital platform open up the art market?  

ID: We offer limited editions by established artists, created especially for Her Clique, and we offer those at affordable price points. Also, every collaboration we launch comes with a personal story of the artist – what inspires her, her background, how the edition fits with the rest of the body of her work. I think access to information, perhaps as much so as affordable pricing, is important in drawing in an audience that would otherwise not engage. I feel that over the past several years, and in large part thanks to the ‘internet revolution’ of the art world, the homogeneity of the art market is being shattered, allowing for new demographics of art market participants, both on the artist and also on the buyer side. A lot of the old formats of art dealing are being challenged and changed for the better. The internet has created an unprecedented access to artists and to market information, traditionally predominantly granted to the white and wealthy. I am happy for Her Clique to be able to play a small role in that process of change, building an inclusive “clique” for all those who want to be part of it.

CH: How do you select artists to collaborate with Her Clique? Specifically, what draws you to the work of Natalie Frank, the most current collaborator? 

ID: Our main focus is to work with talented artists, who care about their community, social, environmental or other issues and who agree to dedicate part of the sale proceeds to charities of their choice. For the most part, I follow my intuition on who we work with. So far, our lineup has been through existing relationships with artists whom I have been closely following and admiring.

I find Natalie Frank’s work fascinating in the way it pairs fairytales with topics of feminism, sexuality, female representation and empowerment. The limited edition of 30 hand painted lithograph and woodblock prints involved a labor-intensive process, rendering each piece in effect quite unique. The artist chose Dieu Donne as the benefit partner for this collaboration, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving artists through the collaborative creation of contemporary art using the process of hand papermaking. 

CH: A portion of the proceeds from each print sale benefits a nonprofit organization of the artists’ choice. Zoë Buckman, your first collaborator, selected United Way of New York City. How does this redistribution model align with the spirit of the platform?

ID: Giving back to the community is something I always felt companies ought to include in their business models and encourage among their teams. So when I was setting up Her Clique, I decided to do just that. Supporting non-profit organizations is one of the core pillars of our mission. 

CH: Beyond the scope of artists whose limited edition works are offered, you also enfold artists into the clique by highlighting their work on your Instagram (@herclique). What is the significance of creating a network in this style? 

ID: While we commission established artists for our collaborations, we want to use our social media platforms to promote and highlight all artists -- emerging, established, from all geographies and age groups, working across different mediums and techniques. 

CH:  What’s next for Her Clique in 2021?

ID: Our main focus is bringing on diverse international artists. We really want the platform to be a global hub for great and affordable art, which empowers good causes. 

Natalie Frank in her studio, courtesy of Her Clique.

CH: How did you first connect with Iza[bela Depczyk] about the collaboration with Her Clique? In what ways do the founding principles of Her Clique resonate with you and your practice?

NATALIE FRANK: The New York Academy of Art connected us. The feminist underlay of Her Clique is really compelling to me. Most of the people I’ve worked with are women. Both of my dealers are women. I prefer to work with women. I like the idea of being very upfront about having a feminist platform and also supporting nonprofits, both aspects really resonated with and appealed to me.

CH: Tell me about the limited edition Woman and Dog print you created for the site.  

NF: It’s a woodblock print and lithograph. There are a few layers of lithography and then there’s hand-painting. I had long wanted to work with Ruth Lingen at her press and a friend put us in touch. I had this image in mind of a woman and dog kissing. I’ve been making work about women and their bodies and sexuality and feminism for almost twenty years now. I’ve been working a lot also with sanitized fairytales and, in those stories, often women, but also men, transform into animals as a way to show that power can shift and women especially can gain power. So I had this idea of women and their spouses as animals on my mind. 

I had just finished a book on seventeenth-century French feminist fairytales of Madame D’Aulnoy. It comes out in March 2021 with Princeton University Press and is called The Island of Happiness: Tales of Madame D’Aulnoy. I thought this coupling, this kind of intimate portrait of a dog and a woman, would be a good subject matter. Ruth and I set out to figure out how to translate this black drawing I had done on mylar in gouache—I think it had white in it too—into a multicolor print. I had never worked with woodblock cut before and she set me up with a piece of plywood, which I liked because it showed the design of the wood as well as opposed to a smoother wood and some hand-tools and power-tools to carve the wood. I looked at the drawing I had made in black and white and kind of abstractly designed the wood-plate, which would end up being the base-seat of the print. There’s a kind of frenetic movement around the page. I wanted to pair that with a couple of layers of lithography that would look like painting. They could be kind of loose and gestural, but also figurative and rendered. And then the image of the bird in the back, who maybe was a viewer or a spectator or someone menacing coming into the picture, is the last layer to be painted onto the print.

Natalie Frank, Woman and Dog,  hand-painted lithograph and woodblock print, 20" x 24". Edition of 30. Each edition is signed by the artist, courtesy of Her Clique. 

CH: How are you working within a feminist lineage, specifically regarding storytelling? 

NF: That’s the most important question for me. I started out working with unsanitized fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. This was my first book and series of drawings and, from there, I have been collaborating with the fairytale scholar who was the first to translate those stories into English. I was drawn to these stories, the Grimms and fairy tales in general, because they did all begin as women’s oral tales. After we did the Grimms, we worked on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice together, also from Princeton University Press, and then I drew the erotic S&M novel, The Story of O, which is considered kind of a sex-positive, feminist icon of literature. We just finished the Madame D’Aulnoy book together. I’m very interested in reviving women’s stories that have been overlooked. Madame D’Aulnoy was an early writer of Cinderella, but her version is actually feminist and she’s not as well known as her peer, Charles Perrault, who’s very well-known for writing The Little Red Cap.

I take the stories of women’s oral and literary tales, and The Story of O, which feels like a contemporary fairytale, and I focus on the female characters, their narrative, their agency, and the full spectrum of what it means to be a woman, not just the pleasant princesses and sanitized roles that women have been allowed to play, but the evil women, the manipulative women, the women who lie, and also the goodness in women. I try to show the complexity of human behavior.  

CH: Finally, can you speak briefly about the nonprofit organization you selected to receive a portion of the sale proceeds from your print? 

NF: I selected Dieu Donne, which is a hand papermaking nonprofit located in the [Brooklyn] Navy Yard. It is comprised of master papermakers. I was a workspace resident there about five years ago and fell so in love with hand papermaking. It’s an art that is not very well-known and I think on the hierarchy of media, because it is paper, it is not as celebrated as it should be. It’s an incredible group of artists who exposed me to a way of working that I had never encountered before. I started pulp paper painting—and I say “painting,” but I mean dripping with brushes and spoons—with hand-pigmented paper pulp suspended in water to make images, and ultimately paper, that looked like painting, but there’s no paint involved. I found that this translation of my hand is really something that excites me and is incredibly rewarding.

[Dieu Donne] is a place that exposes artists to paper making for the first time. It’s such a complex process and there’s so much equipment needed to make paper between pigmenting, refrigeration systems, presses, and drying systems, and then the knowledge of papermakers. It’s a really special and unique opportunity.  WM 


Cori Hutchinson

Cori Hutchinson is a writer living in Brooklyn.

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