|Vali and Foxy - Self Portrait Polaroid|
Today would have been Vali Myers' 83rd birthday. I remember that Vali once told me she was born with a head of thick red hair and came out howling - she said it set the tone for the rest of her life. Vali was one of the most important people in my life. Knowing her, just spending time being in her wild presence, changed me forever and I am still, only now, understanding the pearls of wisdom that she gifted me so long ago.
I was honoured to be asked to write the foreword for Night Flower - The Life and Art of Vali Myers. I hope it inspires you today to remember Vali and your own wild spirit. And I hope it encourages you to seek out her incredible art and this wonderful book. Viva Vali.
Night Flower - The Life and Art of Vali Myers
Published by Outre Gallery
Foreword by Julia Inglis
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
Edgar Allan Poe 1827
What you hold in your hand is a spark. A spark from the immortal spirit of Australian artist, Vali Myers. Vali has been called many names - witch, bohemian, outlaw, gypsy, visionary. And they are true and they are not true. How do you name a force of nature? Or define a spirit that comes both from an ancient place and a far distant future? The only name that Vali cared for was artist. She dedicated her life to making her art deeply personal, raw and true and she put the same energy into living her life. Vali never lived life on the surface, like her tattooed face she fearlessly wore her spirit on the outside. Everything about her was deep and wild, her beautiful strangeness so natural that she was supernatural.
The ancient Celts believed that we had two selves one that lived in this world and at the same time, one in the Otherworld. This mysterious ‘other’ is usually separate from our knowing but in Vali it co-existed with ease. The Australian Aboriginals call the Otherworld the Dreamtime and Vali used this word often and with love as if it were the real world, a place where creations are born, ancestors reside and the future was already known. Vali was a walker between the worlds. She even called her paintings ‘spirit drawings’ as if pulled from the ether. She drew only for herself with no intention of selling for years, so what you are holding in Night Flower is a book of paintings and writings created by her spirit for her spirit – to romance the other. By opening this book you are crossing a once secret threshold. This is the first time Vali’s notebooks have been unearthed and published in such length and I believe they are important not just for artists but for anyone wanting to know how to befriend their own spirit. Tenderly written and intricately illustrated, these notebooks are literally dreaming manuals on how to live an extra-ordinary life.
Vali was never just a muse, that is too passive a role for a firestarter, an awakener. She is more like an ancient Dakini, a sky dancer who is guardian of the deeper mysteries. Like the Dark Goddesses Lilith and Kali, Vali is a truth-bringer, her bright energy illuminating the darkness and smashing all that is false or a danger to nature. At 19 years of age Vali sailed alone from Australia to Paris in the clothes she stood in carrying a small satchel containing her artwork and a ten pound note. From the sheer force of her spirit she forged a magical life that traversed continents and crossed paths and inspired luminaries such as Jean Cocteau, Django Reinhardt, Salvador Dali, John Lennon, Patti Smith, Tennessee Williams and Marianne Faithful. For most of her life she kept two homes. One her beloved Il Porto (The Port) a wild volcanic valley and animal sanctuary she shared with Gianni Menichetti in Positano, Italy where she withdrew from the world and painted. The other was wherever her spirit urged her to sail to sell her artwork to support her animals.
It was never Vali’s intention, to inspire generations of existentialists, beatniks, hippies ,punks, artists, rebels and beautiful dreamers. She simply trusted her ‘fox nose’ in a constant search for what was real and true, and this was naturally found at the centre of the most important art and cultural movements in modern history. Not that Vali was ever part of anyone else’s ‘scene’ she was simply already there before them. In Night Flower you will glimpse the effect of Vali’s wild magic in written, photographic and drawn contributions by: Gianni Menichetti, Ruth Cullen, Nicole Karidis, Devendra Banhart, Chris Stein, Eileen Polk, Donovan, Lina Eve, Flame Schon, Carol Beckwith, Carlo McCormick and the late Ed van der Elsken.
What would Vali have thought of all this? She would have cared about the art. That her creations pulled from the dreamworld, some taking decades to birth, were still alive. It makes sense to me that after passing away ten years ago and ‘going to ground’, an expression used by fox hunters when the vixen magically disappears from sight, that Vali has returned to fire us up again. In these changing times when we are being called to honour and protect the earth and her creatures, we must first learn how to nurture and protect what is natural and wild within ourselves. We need to know that people like Vali exist. They are rare but they exist. It was my greatest honour to know her personally and my life has never been the same. My hope is that Night Flower opens a door to a time when Vali’s art and life becomes known and celebrated in new ways. I would like to thank all of those who have contributed to the creation of this beautiful book. Together we are creating the possibility of this spark becoming a raging fire.
But first, this spark is for you. A gift from Vali Myers, a woman who dedicated her life to art and honouring the sacred power of nature. May Night Flower kindle a fire in you to seek the wild and the real, and to embrace your own beautiful otherworldly twin, the dreamer with the dream.