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Bohemian like you: Vali Myers the Witch of Positano

Vali Myers was never going to be ordinary. Her talent, wayward spirit and shock of flame-red hair marked her out for a life less ordinary. Ordinary was nice and nice was boring and Vali Myers hated boring.

But Vali had come from ordinary. She was born in Canterbury, Sydney, in 1930 to a wireless operator father and a talented violinist mother. Her mother had given up her career with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to raise her family. Vali watched in growing horror as her mother slowly fell to pieces with the frustration of her small town life. Wives were expected to be drudges for the benefit of their husbands and nothing more. Her mother’s unraveling inspired Vali to focus on and nurture her own talents. She was good at art and loved to dance. She hated school and had difficulties with reading and writing. Her classmates thought her odd, but Vali thought them odd and frighteningly unimaginative.

She quit home at fourteen and worked in a factory to finance her ambitions to become a dancer. Vali eventually became a principal dancer with the Melbourne Modern Ballet Company. This early success confirmed her belief there was more to life than just being some man’s wife as most women her age were expected to be. She later told photographer Eva Collins:

Men always have women backing them up. But show me the bloke who back up his woman if she is an artist. They don’t like doing that, makes them feel like they’re sitting in the back seat. If a man is a real man, why does he need a woman to clean for him? He should look after himself, otherwise, he should go back to his Mummy!

At nineteen, Vali traveled to Paris where she earned a meager living dancing in cafes. For three years she lived on the streets in a hand-to-mouth existence with many of the city’s homeless youngsters. But she was free to do as she pleased and had the opportunity to mix with many of the city’s famous artists and writers like Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet, Django Reinhart, and Jean Cocteau, with whom she often smoked opium.

This gaggle of young beatniks on the fringes of Paris attracted the interest of Dutch photographer Ed van der Elsken, who chose the iconic Vali as the main character in photo-essay Love on the Left Bank (1954). Van der Elsken’s black & white photographs followed Vali as young beatnik girl “Ann” through the gangs of bohemians, musicians, and vagabonds who hung around the bars, clubs, and flophouses of St Germain-des-Prés. Vali’s distinctive look inspired a whole generation of women including Patti Smith who later described Vali as:

...the supreme beatnik chick—thick red hair and big black eyes, black boatneck sweaters and trench coats.

Though a freeform impressionistic tale, van der Elsken’s book did capture much of the life Vali was living among the “young men and girls who haunt the Left bank”:

They dine on half a loaf, smoke hashish, sleep in parked cars or on benches under the plane trees, sometimes borrowing a hotel room from a luckier friend to shelter their love. Some of them write, or paint, or dance.

Vali was dancing and painting and keeping a journal of her daily life. She was occasionally arrested as a vagabond but was usually bailed out by Jean Cocteau. During this time, she met and married Hungarian architect Rudi Rappold and for a time they lived in Vienna, Austria, and then in Positano, Italy. After Rappold’s death, Vali remained in Italy where she had gained the moniker “the Witch of Positano” because of her outsider existence. She continued to paint and write and spend time looking after the local wildlife.

In the sixties, Vali moved to London and then to New York. She was a friend and muse to Salvador Dali and became friends with the likes of Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful. In 1968, Vali starred with Marianne in a little-seen film called Dope about London’s drug scene. Vali then moved to New York where she lived at the Chelsea Hotel. It was here she met Patti Smith for whom she famously tattooed a lightening fork on her knee. But Vali didn’t like New York. It was brutal, hard and false. After an aneurysm in 1994, Vali eventually returned to Australia.

With her gypsy dress, her flaming red hair and distinctive facial Maori tattoos, Vali was instantly recognizable wherever she went. But it was her outsider artwork that achieved the greater attention. Her paintings were bought by museums and galleries in America, Europe, and Australia and were collected the likes of Mick Jagger and George Plimpton.

Vali died from cancer in February 2003. She had no regrets. She had lived her life as she wanted to live it. On her deathbed she said:

I’ve had 72 absolutely flaming years. It 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.

Vali in Paris photograph by Ed van der Elsken.
See some of Vali’s artwork and more iconic photos, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘An ABZ of Love’: Kurt Vonnegut’s vintage go-to guide on sex and sexuality

The great Kurt Vonnegut.

“An erect penis has no resemblance to the kind that they have seen on statues in parks or on small boys paddling the seashore.”

—Authors of An ABZ of Love, Sten and Inge Hegeler on what it is like seeing a penis for the first time.

Inge and Sten Hegeler were a bit like the Danish version of Masters and Johnson, the transformative American research team that revolutionized human sexuality. Hegeler was a psychologist and author who specialized in sexology. In 1948 Hegeler published the book Hvordan, Mor? ( How, Mother?) which was considered one of the first books of its kind to detail such direct, honest advice on how to provide sexual education to kindergarten-aged children. After getting his own psychology practice up and running he and Inge would go on to publish a few other notable books including one that Kurt Vonnegut kept on his own library shelf, An ABZ of Love.

Vonnegut was so taken with the publication that he wrote a letter to his wife letting her know where she could “find” the book in his library. The book itself, which was self-published by the pair in 1962, was exhaustive when it came to its range of information. And I mean they covered everything including topics that were (and are still by some) considered taboo which made ABZ a rather boundary-smashing publication that voiced a clear, positive opinion about equality and its relation to gender, color or one’s sexual identity. They were also fond of using proper words such as “cock,” “pussy” and “fuck” to describe specific actions or attributes within the book’s nearly 300 pages. No wonder Vonnegut adored it enough to write his wife a love-letter of sorts about it. In fact, here’s a short epigrammatic passage from ABZ that sounds a whole lot like Vonnegut wrote the advice himself.

So there are two paths we can take: one is try to deny and suppress our emotions and force ourselves to think sensibly. In this way we run the risk of fooling ourselves.

Hi ho. At this point, it seems pretty clear to me that everyone should own a copy of An ABZ of Love. It is also quite possible that there are many among us that could use a little refresher course on the ins and outs of what we all think about every single day, sex, as it just doesn’t come in one flavor. You know like vanilla? I’ve included many illustrations by Krag from the vintage book, which has been published in fifteen different countries, along with their often amusing captions below. Many are NSFW.

Text reads: “It is possible to be lonely in a group, too.”

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Trophy Wife Barbie

Like most boys of a certain generation, I had an Action Man. Action Man was the British equivalent of America’s G.I. Joe. A twelve-inch doll with movable parts, “gripping hands,” short-cropped hair, and sometimes a stubbly beard. It sounds like a sex toy. Maybe it was. Most likely not as Action Man didn’t have a dick.

I never thought of him as some kind of ideal man. Action Man may have had a ripped body, a macho scar on his cheek, and a military wardrobe the envy of every tin-pot dictator but he had no dick. Action Man was just a piece of plastic that I gave meaning by inventing various games by which to play with him. This was mainly fighting Nazi zombies, escaping Frankenstein’s laboratory, and the occasional scientific experiment like testing the law of gravity by throwing Action Man out of a bedroom window with a homemade handkerchief parachute. Action Man was just a toy that lived through my imagination until books, records and girls came along.

Annelies Hofmeyr uses her imagination to cast Barbie in various satiric images that challenge gender identity. Hofmeyr is a South African conceptual artist who operates under the name WIT MYT. This is pronounced as “vit mate” and according to Hofemyr:

WIT stems from the Afrikaans word for WHITE and MYT, a derogatory term for a domestic worker, a job usually reserved for coloured (mixed race) and black people. The same phonetic word in Dutch (the colonisers of South Africa), means girl.

Hofmeyr was born in South Africa sometime in the 1980s, the daughter of a gunsmith father and a British mother. She studied Fine Art and Graphic Design in Cape Town before beginning her peripatetic life traveling around the world due to a “combination of study debt” and South Africa’s “strained political situation.” Living in various countries, Hofmeyr studied a Contemporary Jewelry course in Melbourne, Australia. This started her career creating “Contemporary Adornment” and conceptual art.

Hofmeyr started her Trophy Wife Barbie pictures on the day of her divorce. Her first photograph featured Barbie clutching Ken’s decapitated head with the caption “Yay! My divorce went through today!” underneath. She posts her pictures on her Instagram page. Hofmeyr uses Barbie to make satirical and politically-charged comment about gender and everyday sexism. As Hofmeyr has said:

She has been judged by her appearance and now that her situation has changed (and she’s no longer a wife) she needs to find her identity outside of her label.

Prints of Trophy Wife Barbie are available at $18 a pop. See more of Hofemyr’s work here.
More Trophy Wife Barbies, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Painted Ladies and Broken Figurines: The dark feminist art of Jessica Harrison
08:54 am


Jessica Harrison

There must have been thousands of these figurines perched on shelves, mantelpieces and end tables in suburban households across the land. I know my grandmother had about half-a-dozen of these porcelain figurines of fair-skinned women lifting the hem of their dresses that mysteriously billowed like a sail from some absent breeze. Some held poesies or baskets crammed with yellow daffodils and roses. They were difficult to keep clean. Dust clung limpet-like in tufts. My grandmother accidentally broke them all at various times—usually when trying to remove resistant clumps of dust. Hands cracked at the wrist, arms amputated at the elbow, noses chipped off. She always stuck them back together again which made these scarred, now imperfect figures seem oddly more real.

I suppose this in part explains why I like Jessica Harrison’s beautiful and dark creations made from such popular mass-produced figurines. Jessica is an Edinburgh-based artist who refashions these found objects into quirky and visceral works of art. She works with a scalpel and electric saw, and then paints.

My original attraction to these objects was precisely because of this image they portray of the female body – my desire was to counter it and present its opposite within itself. This was quite simple to do, by breaking apart the hollow cast pieces and ‘revealing’ the interior, a standard formula in Western knowledge for making discoveries about the body. The female interior is a space still laced with taboo in a way that the male interior is not, and for me this gender bias of what is most often an invisible space in our everyday lives was a fascinating and important one to address.

Harrison has produced several exhibitions using these startling figurines—her solo shows Broken (2011), Pink, Green, Blue and Black (2016) and most recently in the group show Between Poles and Tides (2017). More of Jessica Harrison’s work can be seen here.
More of Jessica Harrision’s beautiful art, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
There are handmade vagina purses
12:20 pm



These aren’t exactly regular-sized purses. More like coin purses to store your small valuables in like credit cards, coins, makeup or really whatever. And of course tampons. They’re made by Etsy shop Not Made In China Sewing and each one sells for around $19.00 + shipping.

They’re made in Austraila and take about 1-2 weeks to ship because there’s such a demand for them. The pubic hair comes in five different colors: blonde, light brown, dark brown, black and ginger. There are also four shades of skin tones to choose from as well.

I dig the different merkin “hairstyles” on the purses. The names of ‘em are even better: “The Tidy Twat,” “The Overly Manicured Muff,” and last but not least “The 70s Porno Pussy.”


More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The beautiful lost sculptures of Augusta Savage
03:30 pm


Augusta Savage

The African-American artist Augusta Savage was born in Florida during a leap year on February 29, 1892. Her earliest memories were of the heavy rains and making ducks and chickens from the wet red clay out in the yard. She decided early to become an artist but her father, a strict Methodist minister, tried to whip this dream out of her. He sometimes beat her four or five times a week. It didn’t work. Augusta was determined to go her own way.

The options for most poor girls at the turn of the last century was go to work, get married and have kids. Augusta married at the age of fifteen in 1907 and gave birth to her only child, Irene, a year later. Not long after this, her husband died. Augusta then got hitched to a carpenter by the name of James Savage. The marriage lasted until the early 1920s when the couple divorced. Augusta liked the surname so decided to keep it.

With marriage and a baby to look after, Savage didn’t manage take up sculpting again until 1919 when a local sculptor gave her some clay. She knew she had talent but how much she wasn’t sure. Her talent was decidedly confirmed when she entered a couple of her latest sculptures into a local fair. She won top prize. This was just enough encouragement for Augusta. She gave her daughter over to the temporary care of her parents and headed off to New York to enrol as a student at the Cooper Union School of Art.

To her tutors it became quickly apparent that Savage was an exceptional talent. She passed her four year arts course with flying colors in a speedy three. But not everyone was impressed with this bright and talented young woman. 

In 1923,  Savage won a place among one hundred other American students to travel to Fontainbleau, France for a summer arts program. Arriving at the venue just outside Paris, Augusta was barred from entry and ejected off the course by the French organizers on grounds of her color. But other people’s racism and stupidity was never going to stop Augusta.

She returned to New York where she soon set-up a studio in Harlem. Augusta established herself as a portrait sculptor seeking commission from well-to-do African-American families to produce busts. It was during this time that Augusta produced one of her most famous and celebrated works Gamin.

In 1929, Augusta Savage won another fellowship to study in Paris. This time there was no institutionalized racism standing in her way and all went well. It led to a second fellowship the following year. But upon her return to America in the early thirties, she found the country devastated by the Wall St. Crash and the ensuing Great Depression. No one wanted portrait busts or civic sculptures. Undeterred, Augusta opened the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in Harlem 1932, where she taught art to young kids in the neighborhood.

Success followed in 1934, when Augusta became the first African-American to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. Three years later, she became the first director of the Harlem Community Art Center—which played a crucial role in the lives of many black artists.

Yet, Augusta Savage’s life always seemed shadowed by obstacle and opposition. The height of her greatest sculptural achievement came when she was asked to create a large sculpture for New York’s World Fair in 1939. Augusta produced a work called The Harp. It took her two years to develop and create. This massive piece of sculpture was inspired by the poem Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson. The poem was written in response to “a group of young men in Jacksonville, Florida, [who] arranged to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday in 1900.”

Lift every voice and sing  
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us. 
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Augusta’s statue featured twelve black singers rising up from the palm of God forming the shape of a harp. It was one of the main attractions at the fair. But when the show closed, no one was interested in helping Augusta keep the work or having it cast in bronze. The sculpture was smashed to pieces. It was a symbolic finale to Augusta’s career. On returning to Harlem, she found her position at the Community Arts Center had been taken by someone else. Things began to fall apart—more so after America entered the Second World War in 1941. Thereafter, nearly everything Augusta attempted failed. She moved to Saugerties, in the Catskill Mountains and started producing smaller works. But something had been lost. Something that had once been so powerful and resilient had been destroyed.

Augusta Savage produced less and less work. Most of her original work had been lost or destroyed. By the time of her death in 1962, Augusta Savage was tragically relatively forgotten

I have created nothing really beautiful, really lasting, but if I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.

I don’t know if Augusta celebrated her birthday every four years or shifted around between the 28th Feb. and first of March, but as this is the last day in February maybe we should celebrate Augusta Savage who was truly one of the most significant American sculptors of the twentieth century.
Augusta in her studio.
‘The Harp’ (1939).
Read more about Augusta Savage, and see more of her work, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The ‘private’ photographs of Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg: Questioning gender roles circa 1900
11:41 am


Bolette Berg
Marie Høeg

Marie Høeg (1866-1949) had short cropped hair. Bolette Berg (1872-1944) kept hers long. Marie was short. Bolette was taller. They were known to the people of Horten, a busy naval port in Norway, as the two ladies who ran the photography studio called Berg & Høeg. They made their living taking portrait photographs, landscape pictures and the occasional picture of ships. In the late 1800s and early 1900s photography was the latest craze where those who could afford it had their picture taken. There were many such photographic studios in Horten. Berg & Høeg may have been long forgotten had it not been for the discovery some thirty years ago of some 440 of their glass negatives in an old disused barn in Oslo.

Among these glass plates was a box marked “Private.” Inside this box was a set of images featuring Høeg and Berg playing around with traditional gender roles. Høeg dressed as a man with a waxed mustaches, or as a boy with white shirt, cap and cigarette, or in fur pretending to be an Arctic explorer like Roald Amundsen, who led the first expedition to traverse the Northwest Passage in 1903–06.

Berg & Høeg posed with their women friends indulging in some of the worst kind of vices usually attributed to men—smoking, drinking and playing cards. Høeg also posed as husband to an unknown male friend as wife and in a rowing boat as a bowler-hat-wearing suitor to Berg’s elegant object of desire.

The finished photographs would have been shared among their small coterie of friends in Horten. Their friends no doubt laughed at these daring, subversive images which cocked a snook at the strict conventions surrounding sexuality, gender and identity at a time when women were called the “weaker sex,” and forbidden the vote.

Marie Høeg was the main subject of these “private” photographs. During her life she was best known as a pioneering activist for women’s rights. She founded the Horten Branch of the National Association for Women’s Suffrage, the Horten Women’s Council and the Horten Tuberculosis Association. Bolette Berg worked more behind the camera. The two women are believed to have met while studying photography in Finland during the early 1890s. They moved to Horten where they set up a studio together in 1895.

In 1903, the two women left Horten and set up a new studio in Oslo (then called Kristiania) where they had a career producing scenic and portrait postcards. They bought a farm and at some point stored their glass negatives in the barn where these images remained long after both Berg’s and Høeg’s deaths until their discovery in the 1980s.
More of Høeg and Berg’s cross-dressing pictures, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Complete your LEGO Women’s March with pink Pussyhats!
07:53 am


Women's March

Okay, these are downright sweet. I love them. Sadly, the Pussyhats for your LEGO figurines are not available to purchase but can be made with a 3D printer. That’s how these LEGO-like hats and signs were created. 

From Thingiverse:

This LEGO® minifig compatible Pussyhat celebrates the millions that joined the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and around the world on January 21, 2017. “The Pussyhat Project is a movement, not just a moment.” Print a Pussyhat and create a Women’s March minifig to display as a reminder of the fight for women’s rights and equality.

There are 2 version of the Pussyhat model, v1 requires supports but is a better fit while v2 requires no supports. Some trial and error and/or post-processing may be needed to get a perfect fit with your printer. Scale the model up or down slightly as needed. Designed in Tinkercad and printed on an Ultimaker 2.

According to Thingiverse, if you do decide to tackle this project on your own with your 3D printer and have any questions, you can contact the designer on Facebook or Twitter.


More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
When comic book ‘heroes’ were sexist women beaters

We don’t have to time travel like Dr. Sam Beckett to find out just how terrible things were in the past. No, we’ve got the Internet to do that for us.

If you’ve ever wondered how easy sexism, misogyny and violence is passed on generation to generation then look no further than this brutal gallery featuring some of the world’s favorite cartoon characters and comic book superheroes spanking women. Their actions are supposed to be funny. Their actions are supposed to be normal. It’s even encouraged by their fellow comic strip characters and worse accepted as a suitable punishment by the women being hit.

Dr. Beckett would have had a hell of a time trying to sort all this sexist crap out and “change history for the better.”

Between the 1940s and 1970s, spanking in comic books appeared to be mandatory. Virtually every comic book hero from Batman, Daredevil, the Phantom, Li’l Abner and Superman indulged in this kind of abuse. Let’s be clear Lois Lane would have dumped Clark Kent for his psychotic penchant for domestic abuse. Bruce Wayne would have been put on at least on community service for his cosplay sadism. Then there were all the dimwits in the newspaper “Funnies” who only reinforced the worst kind of behavior.

The spanking may have stopped but the sexism is still very much a part of today’s comic books as can be seen by the cover of Spider-Woman #1 or through the Hawkeye Intiative. No doubt Dr. Beckett is out there right now trying to fix that too….
More sexist superhero violence, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Beautiful portraits of the Iconic Stars, Bad Girls and Pioneering Women of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Artist Charles Gates Sheldon (1889-1960) is best known for his cover art for publications like Photoplay, the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s Magazine. His work also included advertising and book illustration. But I like to think of Charles Sheldon Gates as the man who reinvented religious iconography for the twentieth century by replacing the portraits of angels and saints with pastel portraits of the silent movie stars and Hollywood legends of the 1920s and 1930s.

Sheldon’s portraits of actresses deserve to be glorified. These women were all tough dames. Most came from blue collar backgrounds and made their own way to the top in Hollywood at a time of autocratic studio bosses and sex pest producers. Some like Clara Bow lived a life of excess and ultimately paid for it. Others like Katharine Hepburn were strong-willed and fiercely independent who relished their freedom and privacy. Many died far too young. But all had a talent to entertain, inspire and bring a little hope—the kind of thing people get from religious paintings.
The original ‘It Girl’ Clara Bow.
Clara Bow.
The original ‘sex symbol’ and ‘Blonde Bombshell’ Jean Harlow.
More icons of the silver screen, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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