"Natalie White vs. Marilyn Monroe + Now You See" Opens at Manhattan's Rox Gallery

Musing on muses.

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Complex Original

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To hail someone as “muse” on a CV is promising a lot. “Mega-muse,” as Natalie White is billed, allows no room for the otherwise. Not since Calliope has an inspiration been so cited as the performance artist and photographer White. A new show focusing on her powers of stimulation, shouldering her against the famed high-Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe, opened at the Rox Gallery in New York City’s Lower East Side, Wednesday, January 8. “Marilyn Monroe vs. Natalie White  + Now You See” showcases works inspired and created by White, along with a clutch of lush photographs of Monroe, amidst a smattering of paintings. It gives a more exposed look at Monroe and the New York City sensation White.

White got a hold of one of the last remaining large-format 20x24 Polaroid cameras and turned it on herself. Displaying 24 massive  self-portraits lit in red, white, and blue, White appears nude, sometimes double exposed against herself, on a black field, both elegant and sinister. Next to highly contrasting photos of Monroe—under pink gauze and in an overexposed white space—they carry a tragic significance that borrows from the lore of Monroe.

The photos of the actress are from a collection of the last moments of the star’s life. Taken by Bert Stern just six weeks before her death, they relay a tragic figure touched by something of an insatiable desire to be nothing but seen.

To focus the notion of muse on an individual is characteristic of something tragic: Greece, any single other person’s fallibility, why literally anything can be the font of art. It’s not necessary—or always possible—to be so focused on one human as a source of creation. But Natalie versus Marilyn talks more about narrative on a continuum than it does any single source. We're always searching for a new muse.

The entire list of artists showing work is below:

Andrew Coslow, Amanda Charchian, Elliot Goldstein, Chen Jiagang, Dave Schubert, Frank Schramm, H. Spencer Young, Huang Yan, Imogen Cunningham, James Powers, Jarmo Makila, J.J. Bugat, Jordan Doner, Max Snow, Michael Wolf, Sean Lennon, Spencer Tunick, Tanatos Banionis, Tom Smith, and Richard Estes.

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