I discovered a few days ago that my friend, artist Valerie (Velinka) Porter Stancin died on Feb. 24, 2012.
It was Velinka who introduced me to Cy Breen mentioned previously in this blog.
At 36 years my senior, she was Maude to my Harold, if you know what I am saying, although I wasn’t quite as dark as Harold. She taught me that life and art are one and I must be passionate in ALL that I do.
She would always say that as artists, we had more creativity & expression in what we left in the toilet after our morning bowel movements than most people have in their entire lifetimes. As was her nature, she of course, would elaborate in far more graphic detail.
I met her in the summer of 1990 when she came in to a photo lab I was working at in Palm Springs to get some film developed. She asked me my name and was all touchy-feely and kept grabbing my forearm and hands as I filled out her order envelope. When she left the lab and and was in the the middle of the lobby, she began to sing my name, turning, whirling, hands above her head swirling, scarves and skirt of colors twirling: “Joe, JOOOE, Jooe, JOE” When she got to the door, she turned to me and seductively said “Good bye Joe” smiled, waved and went out the door. I laughed and said “what the hell?” my co-worker asked me: “you gonna hit that or what?” then just laughed and said “Go Vato” and then mimicked “Joe, JOOOE, Jooe, JOE”
The next time she came into the lab, she moved seductively, like a lioness slinking towards it’s prey as she approached me at the counter. She paid for her film processing and invited me over to her studio “to look at her art”. I, of course, accepted her invitation.
We became very close quickly and would spent evenings together smoking weed, drinking wine and talking. She was still in mourning over the death of her husband artist, John Stancin who had died just a couple of months before and would talk about him at length.
She showed me her scarp book to read and in there were pictures of her as a young woman in Spain with Picasso, Man Ray and Salvador Dali. There where pictures of jewelry she had made, letters from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, thanking her for the jewelry she had made for them. There was the contract and pictures from Joe Wieder of the bronze sculpture she had done of him, which was the same one that was pictured on the Joe Wieder products I had purchased in the past.
On every inch of wall space in her apartment, were paintings of her’s and John’s work. I recognized John’s right away. I felt as if I had seen it before or had known it somehow.
She had four place settings, of four plates each, each set a different color. When I would go over to her house and she was making dinner, it was my task to set the table. From the color of the plates I set on the table, she would “Cook with Color” and make the meal based of colors that would complement the canvas (plate) and the food was her palate of paint. I was always amazed that not only did the food taste awesome, it looked incredible.
To this day I use some of her “Cooking with Color” concepts and throw food in a pan based more on its color than its taste. I know the tastes, but it’s the way colors compliment each other I strive to create.
We were both moving out of our apartments on the same day. I went over to her old apartment to take her ceiling fan down and move it to the new apartment. It was a more difficult task than I had planned on…but it had NOTHING to with the fact that we smoked a fat joint prior to me starting the task.
After the fan was installed in her new apartment, I was slightly bitchy for it took much longer than I expected. Valenka handed me a rectangular shaped garbage bag and told me ”Here. I want you to have these. John would have wanted you to have these.” I took the bag from her and went home and began my move.
A couple of months later I opened the bag to see what was in it. There was variety of drawings in various mediums: watercolors, both lead and color pencil, water-color, water color with pen, charcoal, and chalk drawings. Two drawings were back to back in cellophane and when I looked between them I found a 5×7 pencil drawing, that was a self-portrait of her husband, John and written on it was “To my beautiful wife from your Loving Husband, John”
I knew I had to return this drawing, so I called her and asked if I could come over.
We sat down on the couch and I told her “I looked thru the bag you gave and I found this and there is no way I should have it. It is meant for you” as I handed her the drawing her husband had drawn for her who knows when. She looked at it with a stunned looked on her face and then just began to sob, ”Oh John, Oh John” she hugged the drawing against her chest and cried. I was so touched by this. I felt a sadness, yet a joy as I knew when I saw the drawing that it had to go back to Velinka, for it was meant for her and I was somehow allowed to give it to her as a gift from John after he died. This caused a surge of emotion in me and I too began to cry.
She hugged me and said “Thank you. I love you.” Then she stood up and started to kind of rant, somewhat angrily: “you know his work, and he never fucking knew you!” she walked over to a wall and took a painting down returned to me and dropped in my lap and continued “ My own kids don’t appreciate his work” and grabbed another painting off the wall. This continued for a short while until I had a pile of paintings on my lap; as she tossed the last one on the heap, it bonked me on the nose and I took the paintings off my lap stood up and went over to her and grabbed her arms, turned her to me and said “STOP!” She collapsed against me, started to sob again and I held her close.
When she composed herself she said she wanted to be alone, and that I should go, but she wanted me to take the pile of paintings that she had placed on my lap. I took them, and a couple of days later brought them back to her to return them and she made it clear: I had given her the best gift from John, so she wanted me to have something from John.
These paintings hang in various points throughout my house today.
Velinka inspired me in so many ways. She felt that labels were bullshit and if she had to ,the only one she would accept was that of “trisexual.” Being of course, that a person should try anything sexually, to expand sexual prowess through a vast variety of experiences and lovers, the more bizarre the better. It was her nurturing and encouragement that led me to become a multi-generational lover, and to open myself to many avenues of expression with both sexes that took me from being the awkward pupil, to the teacher, and to the man I am today. This really wasn’t too difficult, with what little experience I had then; I was still pretty much just a walking boner, and willing to try anything anyway. She would always ask, and request in graphic detail for me to recount my sexploits for her; even this, built a certain confidence in me as I would report my new experiences to her.
Our friendship never really waned, but we grew apart as she took a lover closer to her age and I was off following my own pursuits.
The last couple of times I was in Palm Springs and would pass by her old apartment, I thought that I should look her up, but always felt it could wait “until next time.”
When I read her obituary, I felt a tug of sadness but yet at the same time a surge of energy to create, which she always seemed to ignite in me. So as a memorial I guess, I made a major purchase buying some photographic equipment that will hurl me into another realm of photography.
So I don’t what else to say…except for maybe take a walk on the wild side…try something different. Get tied up, tie someone down, get on top, be a bottom…let someone take their teeth out for you! That thing you said you NEVER do….DO IT!!
Joe, I knew Valerie very well in her Laurel Canyon days. I was her eldest son’s girlfriend during high school and I spent many many days and evenings at their house creating art, dancing, and just being hippie kids with the hippie mother! She also came over and met me when I was in Israel, when I was 18. She said she flew over to take me back to be with her son, who she said missed me terribly. She also said she wanted me back in the family.
I was planning on visiting her in PS and we talked on the phone several times. But I never made it. It was At Kunkin, her 2nd husband who told me of her passing. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to see her.
Thank you for this lovely and true to life account of her. This was the Valerie I knew all so well. And as for Vito… I knew him well too!!