Vali Myers

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Vali Myers (2 August 1930 – 12 February 2003) was an Australian visionary artist, dancer, bohemian and muse of the 50s and 60s in Europe and the US.

Early life[edit]

Myers was born in Canterbury, Sydney on 2 August 1930. Born to a violinist mother and marine wireless operator father, Vali displayed a talent for art at an early age. The family moved to Box Hill Melbourne from Sydney, Australia in 1941 and Vali left home at 14. After working in factories to support her dance lessons she became immersed in dance and later became the leading dancer for the Melbourne Modern Ballet Company.[1] In 1949 at age 19 Myers travelled to impoverished post-war Paris to pursue a dance career but found herself living on the streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés Quarter on the Left Bank.[1]

Career[edit]

Myers was a flamboyant fantasy artist who worked in pen and ink and watercolour as well as being a nightclub dancer. She divided her life between her adopted home of Melbourne, the Hotel Chelsea in New York City, Paris, and a 14th-century cottage in her valley near Il Porto (Positano), Italy.

Her visionary art works developed from early detailed monochromes to a full range of vibrant colours and tones[2] extending to watercolour and gold leaf, displaying a "fastidiously rendered depiction of a personal spirit world".[3] She was acquainted with many celebrities and creatives including Tennessee Williams, Salvador Dalí, Django Reinhardt, Jean Cocteau, Patti Smith, Jean Genet, and many others.

Myers' paintings have sold for up to $US40,000 ($A68,000) in New York. Her work was held in the Stuyvesant collection in the Netherlands, New York's Hurryman Collection, and is owned by private collectors such as George Plimpton and Mick Jagger.[3]

Personal life[edit]

While in Europe she married Rudi Rappold, a Hungarian gypsy, and moved to Positano. The marriage ended and eventually her lover, Italian artist Gianni Menichetti moved in and helped turn the property into a wildlife sanctuary endorsed by the World Wildlife Fund. Later, after she began having seizures, she returned to Melbourne in 1993, and opened a studio in the city; only returning to Positano occasionally.[1]

Death[edit]

Myers died in Melbourne on 12 February 2003 shortly after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 72.

On 18 January 2003 The Age newspaper printed an article about the artist's life before her death a month later. The article concluded with the following quote from Myers:

I've had 72 absolutely flaming years. It [the illness] doesn't bother me at all, because, you know, love, when you've lived like I have, you've done it all. I put all my effort into living; any dope can drop dead. I'm in the hospital now, and I guess I'll kick the bucket here. Every beetle does it, every bird, everybody. You come into the world and then you go."[3]

LUMA[edit]

An exhibition of her work was held at LUMA (La Trobe University Museum of Art) in 2013. The show, Between Dusk and Dawn was a personal retrospective that included works from private collections in the US and Europe and ran in September and October.[4]

Books[edit]

  • Myers, Vali, 1930-2003 Drawings 1949-79 / Vali Myers. London : Open House, 1980 : ISBN 0-905664-25-6
  • Macintosh, M. & Jones, G. (ed), "Night Flower: The Life and Art of Vali Myers" Melbourne : Outre Gallery Press, 2012 : ISBN 978-0-9751078-9-8
  • Menichetti, Gianni, Vali Myers Memoirs Fresno, CA : Golda Foundation, 2006 : ISBN 0-9785606-0-4
  • Van Der Elsken, Ed, Love on the Left Bank Amsterdam : Bezige Bij, 1956 : ISBN 1-899235-22-3

Filmography[edit]

  • Vali, The Witch of Positano - 1965. A film by Sheldon and Diane Rochlin, co-Produced by George Plimpton. Winner, Documentary Film Category, 1965 Mannheim Film Festival. (Duration: 65 minutes)
  • The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda - 1968. Experimental film by Ira Cohen. (Duration: 22 minutes)
  • Dope - 1968. A film by Sheldon and Diane Rochlin. A documentary about a young London woman's drug addiction in the late 1960s. Vali Myers appears in scenes throughout the documentary.
  • Vali: Death in Port Jackson Hotel - 1971. A film by Ed van der Elsken. Features Vali in her "savage paradise", Il Porto, the canyon near Positano where she created her artwork. (Duration: 36 minutes)
  • Patti and Vali - 1973. A short film/documentary by Sandra Dailey. The film shows Patti Smith having her knee cap tattooed by Vali, and also features an off screen commentary by Smith. (Duration: 30 minutes)
  • Vali: The Tightrope Dancer - 1989. A documentary by Australian film-maker Ruth Cullen. (Duration: 58 minutes)
  • Painted Lady - 2002. Ruth Cullen's follow up to The Tightrope Dancer, a documentary that follows Vali at her studio and with friends like Lee Fuhler. (Duration: 27 minutes)

Trivia[edit]

  • Love on the Left Bank is a 1954 book of photographs from Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken (1925–1990), documenting the bohemian life on the Rive Gauche of Paris. Vali Myers is shown throughout the book, along with some of her early drawings.
  • Vali Myers was a huge inspiration to the young Patti Smith, whose walls were covered in pictures of and by Vali Myers. When they met in New York, Vali tattooed Patti with a lightning bolt on her knee cap. This was filmed by Sandra Dailey who also filmed the infamous piercing of Robert Mapplethorpe's nipple.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c [1] obituary
  2. ^ http://other-magazine.com/the-witch-of-positano-the-enchanted-art-of-vali-myers/ LUMA Between Dusk and Dawn exhibition review "The Enchanted Art and Life of Vali Myers", David Mattichak in Other magazine 31 October 2013
  3. ^ a b c The Age article January 2003, while Myers was hospitalised, "The Final Dream of a Bohemian Priestess" by James Norman [2]
  4. ^ LUMA Vali Myers Art Gallery Trust
  5. ^ from Patti Smith: A Biography (1997) by Nick Johnstone Omnibus Press, UK ISBN 0-7119-6193-X paperback.

Sources[edit]

  • Smith, Bernard; with Terry Smith & Christopher Heathcote (2001). Australian Painting 1788-2000. Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press. p. 630p. ISBN 0-19-551554-4. 

External links[edit]