06/09/2013 09:59 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2013

Audrey Niffenegger Art: 'Awake in the Dream World' Presents Surreal Portraits Of Mystical Women (PHOTOS)

National Museum of Women in the Arts

"The compulsion when I'm writing has often been: 'Let's kill them all!' writes Audrey Niffenegger, author of "The Time Traveler's Wife," in a piece for the Guardian. "I can make my characters' lives really quite miserable. I don't feel a duty to give hope or do the right thing, only to get inside the person's head and try to understand how horrendous some things might feel."

Niffenegger's tendency to tap into the psychology of her seemingly troubled subjects -- most often women -- shows up on her canvases as well, particularly in her first major museum show, a retrospective at The National Museum of Women in the Arts this month. In the exhibit, Niffenegger displays 239 paintings, none of which depict classical smiling beauties.

Instead, her complicated subjects wear ambivelant expressions, shrinking away from the viewer while powerfully meeting their gaze at the same time. "Her heroines are occasionally doomed, they misbehave, but they are always daring, passionate and independent," reads the press release for the upcoming exhibit.

Niffenegger's show will include including fictional illsutrations of her literary characters, dreamlike compositions, and self-portraits where she appears in various forms -- as Medusa, a jailbird, and a bad fairy. Channeling Edvard Munch here and Gustav Klimt there, the works reveal a wide variety of surreal styles that never shy away from the absurd or nonsensical. Scroll though the slideshow below for a taste of Niffenegger's paintings, and let us know what you think of her darkly whimsical subjects in the comments.

Awake in the Dream World: The Art of Audrey Niffenegger will be on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts from June 21 until November 10, 2013.



Audrey Niffenegger