The Artist and his Muse:
Natalie White first entered my art life at Rox Gallery on the Lower East Side four years ago when gallery director Emerald Fitzgerald asked if I'd be interested in curating a show of artists who had turned their gaze on the young muse and talented beauty from West Virginia. After being photographed by famed photographer Peter Beard who first discovered her at New York's notorious Bungalo 8 nightclub in Chelsea eight years prior, Natalie became the choice model-du-jour for many artists and photographers, a modern day Audrey Munson. That allure intrigued me, I couldn't refuse. Artists like Will Cotton, Spencer Tunick, Sean Lennon, Olivier Zahm, Darius Yektai, Joe Heaps Nelson, Joseph Arthur, Michael Dweck, Anna Bloda, and Raphael Mazzucco formed the basis of this massive pool of talent for which to curate a show from. "Who Shot Natalie White" opened to a packed house, lots of noise, rave reviews and most works selling including all the Giant Polaroids she herself created as budding photographer and took of herself appearing as though she's making love to herself, holding and caressing herself via the use of double exposure. But it was long after the show ended, after she and I had formed a genuine friendship, that this muse to many would eventually find her way to my studio as well.
After the completion of my first painting of Natalie White as the sacrificial Lamb of God (Agnus Dei), a little theme I saw as apropos to the way models and beautiful woman are taken advantage of, or used, I kept reverting to this grander, more actual idea of Natalie as the all-inspiring muse, the way I wrote about her in the "Who Shot Natalie White" catalog essay. Natalie has an inherent and striking grace about her, a charm and beauty that when coupled with her uncanniness at walking around in the buff were the ideal hallmarks to most all representations of The Three Graces from Classical Antiquity to the Renaissance. Here in the studio stood before me both the inspiration (the Muse) for a new series of work and the embodiment of that inspiration (Grace, or Charis in Greek mythology). I kept seeing Natalie as one of these Graces. Which one didn't matter: Was she "Practice" (Melete), "Memory" (Mneme) or "Song" (Aoide)? All I knew was that I needed two more just like her to complete the pictures brewing in the mind's eye. And when model extraordiniare and songstress SuzyMae Howard along with fire-breathing entertainer Samantha Slithers stepped up to the plate –or should I say, out from the water–I had something special to work with.
I knew from my Classical Greek Lit days at Harvard that muses and water nymphs are one and the same. And that water matters to me, in particular the ocean. And place matters to me, especially Montauk Point where some of my earliest childhood memories were formed and 'Memory', as stated above, one of the Three Graces. Slowly, methodically, the muse reveals herself. And from this the Black and Natalie White Series was born. With Montauk as backdrop, "Practice", "Memory" and "Song" had a place to unfold, inspire, and sing. –Gregory de la Haba