Fame Became Her — and Us

Marilyn Monroe, now starring at the Boca, is still raw material for artists and dreamers

Warhol himself, in makeup and blond wig, impersonates Monroe in some early 1980s silver gelatin prints by Christopher Makos. Photos by Alida Walsh, Tina Bara, and Robert Zahornicky also feature impersonations ranging from passable to blatantly fake. They're interested in the idea of Marilyn Monroe, as is Austrian artist Erwin Wurm when he dispenses with the actual woman altogether, presenting instead a simple pencil drawing of a man called Thinking About Marilyn.

The show also includes the work of such acclaimed photographers as Eve Arnold, Peter Beard, Cecil Beaton, Henri-Cartier Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and Philippe Halsman. We see Monroe alone, on movie sets, reading a newspaper in the park, on the beach, sitting at a lunch counter in Central Park, singing "Happy Birthday" to JFK. And of course, we see her with her final husband, Arthur Miller, and with such co-stars as Laurence Olivier and Eli Wallach.

Clothed or unclothed, pensive or simmering with fevered heat, she has become a permanent part of our firmament.
Washington. D.C
Clothed or unclothed, pensive or simmering with fevered heat, she has become a permanent part of our firmament.

All of which add up to the not especially original notion that Monroe is ultimately beyond our reach. She long ago moved on to that realm inhabited by Elvis and James Dean and others whose fame eventually eclipsed them. As poet Thom Gunn wrote in "My Sad Captains," "they withdraw to an orbit/and turn with disinterested/hard energy, like the stars." Like the artists whose work is included in this exhibition, we are now free to project whatever we want onto Marilyn Monroe. She becomes ours, if only in our imaginations.

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