vali meyers

[contributed by TG]

Vali Meyers, one of Patti's early heroes, is an Australian artist. She tattooed the lightning bolt (in honor of Crazy Horse) on Patti's knee during a rare visit to New York. Meyers was born in Sydney in 1930, became leading dancer of the Melbourne Modern Ballet Company, and moved to Paris in 1949. She soon became a notable figure in the bohemian Left Bank community; her long orange hair, ghost white makep, and black kohl rings around her eyes made her striking to see. She also drew intricate black and white self portraits, got into drugs, and was pre-occupied with early death. In 1958 George Plimpton, editor of Paris Review, wrote an adoring portrait of her for his spring issue, and she was also heavily featured in a marvelous book of black & white photos by Dutch photographer Ed Van Der Elsken, Love on the Left Bank.

The book was excerpted in Life: Patti was enamored. In 1973, Patti told Penny Green for Interview magazine,

Vali's an Italian beatnik-witch and she was a big hero of mine when I was 14. She lived on the left bank, the supreme beatnik chick—thick red hair and big black eyes, black boatneck sweaters, and trench coats. Before Edie Sedgwick, she was my heroine. I had pictures of her all over my walls. I never considered her as a real person. Then I was confronted with the real girl, and I thought, "oh man, what am I gonna do," cause I had dealt with the image so long. She came over to me and we played all these, not really lesbian games, but like flirting with a boy in high school. When she tattooed me, it was painful. It looks like a little lightning bolt. My photos had become real, and I had to deal with that as a reality. It was a great turning point in my life, it had come full circle.
The tattooing was filmed by Sandra Dailey, who also shot Robert Getting His Nipple Pierced, featuring Mapplethorpe's piercing, to which Patti added a free-association soundtrack live, during a screening.

According to the Paris Review piece, Vali had planned to commit suicide at age 23, but instead met an Austrian, married him, and they moved to Italy, where she became known as "The Witch Of Positano," leading a communal lifestyle in the mountains. She was the subject of a film documenting her life there. (It's out on video: see link below.)

She made several trips to NYC over the years, selling her paintings to private collectors to raise funds. In 1980 Open House Publishers in London printed an art book, Vali Meyers Drawings 1949-79, which in recent years could be found in remainder catalogues. Her paintings are striking, sensual, and definitely her own vision, artifacts of her inner cosmos and concerns.

A link to the film of Vali's life in Italy:

Mystic Fire video (search for "Vali")

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