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Vali Myers

1930 – 2003

Vali Myers (1930-2003) artist, vagabond and agitator, was born near Box Hill and moved to Melbourne at the age of eleven. Leaving home at fourteen, she worked in factories before becoming a dancer with the Melbourne Modern Ballet Company. When she was nineteen she went to Paris. She lived on the streets, danced in cafes, met Sartre, Cocteau, Genet and Django Reinhardt, and was photographed by Ed van der Elsken for the classic book Love on the Left Bank, in which she is inexplicably identified as 'Ann'. Perhaps most importantly, George Plimpton wrote an article about her for his renowned literary journal, Paris Review. After a period of dedication to opium, in 1952 she either left France voluntarily or was expelled as an undesirable. She settled with her husband near Positano, where she established an animal sanctuary and spent much time recuperating in a cage with a vixen. She funded the sanctuary through selling her art in New York, where she lived at the tawdry Chelsea Hotel, tattooed Patti Smith's knee, and met Dali, Warhol and Tennessee Williams, who is said to have based his character Carol Cutrere on her. She returned to Melbourne in 1993 after a triple aneurism. Pleased to find the city less conservative than she remembered it she established a studio at 37 Swanston Street, but she returned frequently to Italy to see her menagerie. Beasts, especially canines, often appear with female figures in her panel-van style art. Although this has been described as 'outsider art', examples of Myers's work have sold for as much as $US 40,000 in New York, to collectors such as Plimpton and Mick Jagger. Myers has been the subject of three films (1966, 1980 and 1990) and has recently attracted a new generation of feral and wiccan cyber disciples. John Druce painted Myers with a dingo for the Doug Moran Prize in 1998.

Updated 2018