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Vali Myers
, 2001

by Eva Collins

type C photograph (sheet: 30.4 cm x 40.5 cm, image: 26.8 cm x 40.0 cm)

Vali Myers (1930-2003), 'outsider' artist, was born near Box Hill and moved to Melbourne at the age of eleven. Leaving home at 14, she became a dancer. At 19 she went to Paris, where she lived on the streets, danced in cafés, and met Sartre, Cocteau, Genet and Django Reinhardt. George Plimpton wrote an article about her for his journal, Paris Review, and Ed van der Elsken photographed her for the book Love on the Left Bank. In 1952 she left France to settle near Positano, where she established an animal sanctuary and spent much time in a cage with a vixen. She funded the sanctuary through selling her art - in which dogs recur with female figures - in New York. Living at the Chelsea Hotel, she tattooed Patti Smith's knee and met Dalí, Warhol and Tennessee Williams, who is said to have based the character Carol Cutrere on her. She returned to Melbourne in 1993 and set up a studio, which was opened to the public after her death. Nonetheless, in the last years of her life she often went back to her menagerie in Italy. Myers has been the subject of several films, including Tightrope Dancer (1990) and Painted Lady (2003).

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 2003
Accession number: 2003.218