Passion Muses: Vali Myers

The biggest inspiration to me is Vali Myers, a fiery demon angel who covered the world in her goldleaf and fine ink, gypsy dancing and hordes of animals; a fox in human form.

“She was an Amazon. An indomitable creature, a stoic and spartan nomad soul. A primeval, telluric, pagan spirit.”
— Gianni Menichetti on Vali

She was born in the 30s in Australia, later working in factories to save money for dancing lessons. She left for Paris at 19 to pursue a dance career, ending up living on the streets of the Left Bank, a haze of opium and darkness, though she kept living through her drawings, eventually being exiled from France.

“We lived in the streets, in the cafes, like a pack of mongrel dogs. We had our very own codes. Students and people with jobs were kept out. As for the tourists who came around to gawk at “existentialists,” it was all right to con them. We always managed to have rough wine and hash from Algeria. We shared everything.”

She married a gypsy man named Rudi, went back to Paris, then left together to quit opium. They went walkabout through Europe, finding a small little house in the Italian valley of Positano, called Il Porto, and they lived there with a brood of animals, which grew larger every year – dogs and cats and foxes and goats and donkeys and a gaggle of others.

Then came a beautiful Italian boy named Gianni, who Vali took as her lover, she tattooed his forehead and her own face with curlicues and dots, a spirit moustache, and a paw print on Gianni’s third eye. A girl named Caroline lived in a cave nearby.

“She gave me my first tattoo in the first month I lived with her, a five-petaled flower around my navel. I find that a rather beautiful place. And from then on we began to tattoo each other, and a lot. I covered her feet and hands with a blue lace of tattoos. She did my right hand, and I did my left one. For me, that tattooing was my initiation, and a kind of spirit marriage. Indians believe that tattoos stay with you forever, because after death the soul still keeps them.”
— Gianni Menichetti

She lived as a recluse for 40 years, working on her drawings, caring for her menagerie, crawling over cliffs, adoring her pet fox, Foxy, walking to the city for dancing, then coming back in the morning, working on drawings by oil lamp until the sun came up. She would work on pieces for years, the finest ink work, a meditation, almost always including a doppelganger of herself.

❝I just draw – ever since I was a little girl. People always try to label it, but you can’t label this work, it’s original. It’s like asking why do you dance? You do it because you have the spirit inside you… If I didn’t draw I’d go mad. Artists are like shamans – they have that compulsion and nothing can stop them.”

She began selling her art in Europe and New York, moving into the Chelsea Hotel with many other famous artists of the 70s and 80s. But she always returned to her valley, where Gianni awaited, Rudi had become a drunk and taken leave, so it was just Vali and Gianni and the dogs and eels and all their other animal companions.

“When I feel joyous, I dance, and when I don’t, I draw. The feeling to draw is so strong, that if I had to go to prison, I’d see it as an opportunity to sit and create without any distraction.”

Later in her life, she moved back to Melbourne, Gianni staying in Il Porto to care for the animals. She was a spitfire until the end, she died at 72 in 2003.

“Let it all be animal, my life and death, hard and clean like that, anything but human… a lot I care, me with my red heart in the dark earth and my tattooed feet following the animal ways.”

“From the ice and the watery depths, Vali could turn in a moment to fire in her wild imagination. She loved Semiramis, the legendary queen of Assyria, who flung herself on a flaming pyre at the death of her favourite horse. She always yearned to belong to a tribe. She had such a strong instinct for sharing. But, being such an extraordinary individual, I always felt she belonged to a non-existent tribe, or to one that vanished a long time ago. She never belonged to her own time anyway. She would have loved to have lived in the very old pagan days, without man-made gods and just the religion of nature.”
— Gianni Menichetti on Vali

~~~

I feel such a strong connection to this woman – even our art style is similar. Her adoration of animals is parallel to my own, the way she lived in seclusion in nature with a sexy young man as her lover, her wild, barefooted dancing ways, her gypsy style, her tattoos and passion for living, her wanderlust, her disgust at typical life, that a regular job would be like a suicide, that she always longed for a tribe – so many things in common with her that how could I not be inspired and feel a kinship?

I re-read her biography when I went away on my trip, to be renewed by the way she lived, to remind me of how I had lost my damn way, how I had been swayed by bullshit, and to be brave, so brave, and only focus on what is really important to me, my lusts and passions and to never hold myself back, to rejoice in wild ways, for that is who I am, my soul is burning, as hers was, and I tattooed my love of her on my arm, to remind me: LIVE, damnit, so that when you die, you feel satiated.

This reminds me of me and my dog, so much.

“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.”

~~~

More about Vali:

Vali Myers Art Gallery Trust

Witch of Positano tumblr

Gianni Menichetti

A more in-depth post of Vali

Vali Myers: A Memoir by Gianni.

Night Flower: The Life & Art of Vali Myers

Films about Vali

Obsessions Can Lead to Purpose

Zine Art by me (of me), 2000

I’ve been reading a hell of a lot of graphic novels + comics lately – I go through phases where I eschew (well, not totally – I am always reading many things at once) regular reading to let drawings do the talking. This is especially easy since the Vancouver library system has a shit-ton of good graphic novels that I can borrow in bulk.

Once in a while I feel like I am wasting my time on them, but often I find them uplifting, and often so mesmerizing that upon finishing, I hug them to my chest and sigh (I do this with all amazing books). Until the other day, it sort of hit me – all of my passions seemed to coalesce together and I thought…why am I not drawing and writing graphic novels?

My favourite sort are autobiographical – the whole passion for them started years and years ago when I discovered I Never Liked You by Chester Brown and Blankets by Craig Thompson – I’d always liked comics but nothing really captured my heart (except things like Johnny The Homicidal Maniac) – the personal aspect is what really drew my attention.

I’ve always loved coming-of-age stories, memoirs, diaries – I have kept journals since I was 12 (I ripped up the first two unfortunately, but I have many books starting from age 14) – my preferred drawing style is pen-and-ink and I’ve been drawing since I was 2 – I think I’m pretty good.

Latest work, 2011, Yo-Landi

So why didn’t I make this connection before? I’ve even MADE comics. I made many silly, nonsense comics with friends in the late 90s, and I even did a 4-page comic for my boyfriend for our first anniversary.

2010

So, suddenly I thought, wow, I should do autobiographical comics…then I could, write, draw, and I certainly have enough material, detailed material!

I seriously dunno why I haven’t seriously considered it before, but now that I am really into the idea, I feel like it’s the thing I’m meant to do.

Maybe it’s because I’m so clear-headed from how I eat? It’s the happiness that comes from that, and from the copious amount of sun I’ve been getting.

All I know is that I have many project ideas swirling in my brain, now, more than ever before. I get the most flow, groove, and motivation when I am eating REALLY clean. It’s like downloading the universe in one swoop (maybe it was all that lightning we got last night, dancing outside my window).

I still want to write regular fiction, but this is the creative-block-killer that I’ve been needing.

What is your passion? Do you have as many as me? I have so many that it is overwhelming at times and I end up not being able to focus on one and end up doing nothing – that’s why something that incorporates a lot of my interests at once is a relief.

I am Inspired by Everything


Music: Ups and downs, churns and timpanies, gruff growls and intense booms, vibrating vibrato and deep cool burns. The lashing of tongues and spitting of screams. The banshees and the sweet tinkle of bell-voices. The lacerating manic shrieks, the diamond violins, the thundering drums, the lightning keys, the blistering bayonet of basslines. I may suck in my breath for a whole bridge, or grit my teeth for a chorus cacophony, feeling every pore contract and every hair extend. When it pulses through each vein and hits my heart with a well strung arrow, I know it has hit that pulsating organ with all the energy I could possibly need for months.

Literature: The stream and twist of the letters in sequence, a lift in my breath from a lift in verisimilitude, the bloom of events meant to stir deliquium, the cozy familiarity of characters who feel real – concoctions probably based on reality, who are they? I want to know them. I want to dive into a page and swim with syntax, the page water and the ink swells, an oil spill of knowledge, the waves of paragraphs pushing me toward the shore of conclusion.

Art: Ink blots, Rorschach spreading into birds, faces, dandelions, gorillas, apples, forests, hydrangeas, gowns, nebulae – pearls of watercolours, crystals formed of clay, scratches of chalk, caramelized pastels, acrylic constellations, crayon creatures, they all speak to me because I am made of colours and pigments. My brain is grey so as to be infused with brightness and  fuchsia and marigold, neon leaves and vibrant lilac skies. Moondrops made of oily rainbows spread and blister into indigo bruises, chunky dried paint clusters on my heart.

Film: Truth or not there are always parts of us in the moving pixels – the ripples of alchemy, the light showing us the beauty in a simple object, an almost unnoticeable expression, the resplendence of a dewdrop on an eyelash. We need stories, and sometimes in motion – the eyes want loveliness and a screen is a pathway. Billowing daydreams out of your head, they mesh with images onscreen. We must always be moving. We must always be learning. The representation of horrors and triumphs and relationships and dance and fantasy – lay down and let it wash over the synapses, relax and let someone else think for you, meditate on imagery, melt into the visions of other human beings.

Nature: Light, storms, the fronds of trees, the tusks of elephants, the ferocity of lions, iridescent beetles, flies in spider cocoons, jewel eyes, sleek snakes in the reeds, clouds overpowering the blue, rain pummeling the grass, bull-rushes surrounding bullfrogs, chirping tuis, desert landscapes, every grain of sand a star in the universe, galaxies watching over us, the blindness of night, moon craters dipping into the tides, waves pushing forward the people brave enough to sway upon them, sunlight liquefied in leaves, wild blueberries, brambles and nettles, stinging ants, vines to entangle, Venus fly traps with piranha teeth, rivers gushing like orgasm, mountains to intimidate,
vicious sharp-teeth lurking in the deep, talons coming down from the sky, let’s all go to the sea and dip our toes into the infinite, drown ourselves in life, all of us are water, all of us are earth, we are all air, we are all fire.

People: My sister, my brother, you are made of all the same matter, your cells split for the same reasons, your limbs move for the same purpose, your brains are the same empty matter to fill – please unfurl it into a lengthy vine, let each leaf grow into a dream, let each flower bloom into a song. The sun for your brain is curiousity, the water for your brain is literature, the food for your brain is creativity, the sustenance for your brain is companionship, human and non-human, to lift you, push you, move with you, entangle you, embrace you – churn out all the beauty in you to crash down like comets into the world, to shoot like meteors into minds shrouded with steel – break them open, break me open, show me my downfalls, lead me into life, utopia hides in the dark.

Food: Luscious dripping mango, sticky lines down my throat, lemon rinds and orange zests, indigo   berries, scarlet apples, freckled bananas, the sweet roots of lettuce. Sun dried tomatoes chewed to pulp, a tang of grape, a sweet pudding of date squished between molars, scents from within, pomegranate pupils, nostrils pressed into durian pods. Pineapple cuts my tongue into razor edges,
unripe,  eyes feast on coconuts, nibbles of dandelion leaves, wild salal, crisp snap peas, projectile tomato seeds, stains on teeth, smears on cheeks, smiles on lips.

Animals: The softness of down on the cheek. Purrs assimilate with your breath. Wagging tails align with heartbeats. Strong muscles built with wild fruits and emerald blades cross your gaze in the jungle. Eyes peer from the trees. Elephants loom above with parasol ears, they cross the plains and touch the bones of lost ones. Lions laze in a daze. Elsewhere sharks loom, and jellyfish pulsate. Bats hover. Narwhals dive. Dolphins scatter and come together, twisting pleasure. Caribou in snow leaving little twig toe prints, suede-noses, steam breath, fine velvet antlers. Babies tiptoeing behind. Moose with voluminous crowns. Diamond backed otters. Zen-like cows as if dipped in inks. Sloth babies murmur and eat hibiscus. Pandas tumble in the bamboo. Falcons dip their toes into the thermals. Condors gaze down, the rare spies of above. Wolves rake their lips back and teeth shine. Lemurs dance upon fruit peels. Crocodiles bake their curled grins and arched backs. Where are the mammoths, where are the dodos? Where will the tigers be? where will we be without them all?

Fashion: Drape tiger-lilies around me, so I can slip into the sunlight. Adorn me with feathers so I can fly on to dance floors. Rocking-horse heels, sequined eyelids, rainbow tresses, popsicle lips – my ears droop with rubies, my legs are shellacked with latex. I am encased in spiderwebs, I am dipped in linen. Screaming bodies say to paint them with fabric, leave no limb neglected.

Sex: The loss of innocence only to be born again the moment you stop, then over and over until you feel every blood cell move with lightspeed to your chest, all at once, the cerebral cortex like a chainsaw cutting through your spine, opening you like a peach to swallow every morsel, all atoms suddenly visible, all focused on the moment, every thought here and now, you are the zen master.
Sex will electrify the world, the untapped energy source, the new fuel.

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Inspiration is endless – all you need to do is look, keep open, appreciate constantly, and be aware of beauty in amongst the gloom.

This is by no means a complete list – I just wanted to get it out there or I could write it for years.

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Photos all from Pinterest. Top 2: Unknown. 3: Vali Myers (Moby DIck). 4. Doom Generation film still (weird movie, great visuals). 5: National Geographic (I think). 6. Hans Silvester (Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration From Africa). 7/8/9/10: Unknown.