Today, August 2, we celebrate 84 years from the birth of Vali Myers, an exceptional woman, a free and transgressive spirit that was ahead of its time.
Born in Australia in 1930, Vali developed an early love for arts. She studied dance during her childhood, that led her to leave home to go to Paris and continue studying there. During her stay in Paris she lived in the Left Bank neighborhood where she mixed with all the Parisian bohemian movement, the atmosphere was strongly impregnated with many artists that motivated her to create her own artistic work.
Her artworks were made with watercolor, ink, and pens and represent an unreal world with fantastic characters who show her spiritual world. It was characterized by the extreme use of vibrant colors.
She rubbed shoulders with all kind of artists: Django Reinhardt, Jean Cocteau or Jean Genet among others, but also with the high society and aristocrats of the moment. Her overwhelming eccentric personality provided a halo of mystery that was hard to ignore.
She married a Hungarian man with Romani gypsy descent and they moved to Positano (Italy) where she continued painting.
At that time, she was already addicted to opium and her eccentricity and creativity grew. She lived surrounded by animals, especially her friend “Foxy” (a little fox who accompanied her for 14 years). Her physical appearance with facial and hand tattoos meant that everyone knew her as “The Witch of Positano”.
In 1970, she left Italy to live in New York in order to grow as an artist and unleash her creative excitement. She was established in the Chelsea Hotel, surrounded by artists (William S.Burroughs, Abbie Hoffman…) and alternative musicians who admired her as a legend.
In NYC, she continued painting mystical trances, creating illustrations and drawings full of exultant colors with atavistic references, allusions to magic and female spirits. In 1972, Salvador Dalí organized her first exhibition in the Netherlands.
Patti Smith was a deep fan of Vali and they became good friends (Vali tattooed a lightning ray on Patti’s knee).
After New York, Vali Myers alternated her last days between Positano and Melbourne, she died in 2003 at age 72 victim of cancer. In her own words:
“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.”
In addition to her work, Vali Myers represented a transgressive spirit in her time, living by and for the art and guided by her own instinct ignoring the fashions of the moment.
She was a point of reference for other contemporary artists, you can even see her influence in the fashion world, where Miuccia Prada and Marc Jacobs have been inspired by her particular style. It also inspired numerous musicians, from Mick Jagger to Patti Smith, Donovan or Marianne Faithful.
Like a shaman, she used to wear a lot of jewelry, charms, rings, and necklaces. As bewitching Vali cast spells with her hypnotic gaze and her transgressive aura. Her dressing style had a gypsy flavour, garments, overlapping colors, lace leggings, brocades … She anticipated the boho chic style, at least, a decade.
Images via Witch of Positano tumblr.