The Fiercely Independent Women of Venice

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painting of Jataun Valentine and Novelette Tabor Bailey
Jataun Valentine and Novelette Tabor Bailey. Both ladies are direct descendants of Irving Tabor, Abbot Kinney’s chauffeur and confidant. Although Novelette passed away in 2010 at the age of 96, Jataun continues to bear witness to the rich history of the origins of Venice, especially in regards to its early residents of color and Kinney’s evolved attitude of racial equality.

By Barbara Mastej In honor of Women’s History Month, I am elated to have a few of my portraits included in the March edition of the Beachhead. The Venice ladies depicted are from a body of work entitled, “Vestiges of My Venice” I created to pay homage to the people and places that touched me, as well as to document a fading place in history. Some may not be household names, but each has that kind of unique, often unorthodox, spirit that collectively shaped our community.

I moved to Venice in 1988, when it still had a ragged, often dangerous, edge. As a former Detroiter, this didn’t bother me. As an artist, I found beauty in its imperfections. I met some of the most colorful people I have ever known who lived off the beaten path, outside the norm. Many became my friends. Even though, I had a bourgeois life in comparison, I felt simpatico. I didn’t grow up in Venice, yet I was accepted as part of the community. Money or station in life didn’t factor into the equation. Fitting in was defined by your spirit and energy. Being a Venetian was in your genetic code.

Today, Venice is a branded commodity. There are only a few of the authentic nonconformists left and the rest are finding it hard to afford to live here. The influx of money has inevitably blunted the edges, and the raw energy of this place has evaporated. However, just as Abbott Kinney’s initial high brow dream of creating a cultural center mutated into the “Coney Island by the Sea,” change is the one constant. Yet, it’s important to be aware of the ebb and flow of the community. This place will never stop evolving.  

painting of Vance Arquilla
Vance Arquilla – I first met Vance when she was reading tarot cards on Ocean Front Walk. She is also an accomplished astrologer. A singer and a dancer, Vance has a keen eye for fashion and presents herself in dramatic and evocative clothing and poses.

 

painting of Suzy Williams
Suzy Williams – THE free-spirited and soulful chanteuse of Venice, Susie has an extraordinary fashion sense and an incurable addiction to bright red lipstick. A muse to many of us.

 

painting of Francine Danieri
Francine Danieri – Longtime unofficial social director and ambassador to the Venice Canals. She was our “go to” person when it came to any sort of animal rescue, she saved the lives of innumerous birds and other creatures who were injured or just dumped in the Canals. Another resident of the Canals stated when Francine moved away that the “DNA of the Canals” had left the area.

 

painting of Francine Danieri
Francine Danieri – Longtime unofficial social director and ambassador to the Venice Canals. She was our “go to” person when it came to any sort of animal rescue, she saved the lives of innumerous birds and other creatures who were injured or just dumped in the Canals. Another resident of the Canals stated when Francine moved away that the “DNA of the Canals” had left the area.

 

painting of Doran Marold
Doran Marold – Artist and healer shown on her former balcony at her home on Dudley Avenue where she lived since the early 70s. Her melancholy expression reflects the sadness she feels at leaving Venice.

 

painting of Denna Felix
Denna Felix – Back in the day, Denna was a singer and burlesque dancer in Los Angeles. You never caught her without her glamorous make-up, jewelry and head-to-toe outfits in hot pink, cobalt blue, oh, and yes, black. And never without her fluffy white stuffed dog purse.

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