Melinda Camber Porter


Melinda Camber Porter
Melinda Camber Porter
Birth name Melinda Camber
Born September 18, 1953(1953-09-18)
London, England
Died October 9, 2008(2008-10-09) (aged 55)
Sag Harbor, NY
Nationality British
Field Painting, Journalism, Novelist, Poet
Movement Modernism
Influenced by Freud, William Blake

Melinda Camber Porter (September 18, 1953 – October 9, 2008) was an artist, author, poet, journalist and filmmaker. Porter was a modernist who worked in oils, watercolor and ink. She was known for combining the mediums of film, painting and writing.

Her works have been shown at The School of Visual Arts in New York, Oxford University, the Embassy of France, La Maison Francaise and Lincoln Center’s Clark Theatre. Her paintings, poetry and films have been critically well-received. Porter was modest and kept a low profile, preferring to focus on her family and art.

As a journalist, Porter interviewed renowned writers, artists and filmmakers of the past several decades for The Times. Several of her interview subjects became lifelong friends, including filmmakers Louis Malle and Wim Wenders.

For over 25 years she lived at the Hotel Des Artistes in New York City where she married, raised her two children and created her art. After a prolonged battle with ovarian cancer, Porter died aged 55 at the family home in Sag Harbor, New York where she had convalesced.

Contents

Early Life and Education

Melinda Camber was born September 18, 1953 in London to Bernard Camber and Rosalie Evelyn Salzedo. Porter and her older sister Lynn were raised on Wimpole Street, in the house used in the film My Fair Lady. Porter also had half-brother Nard Camber and half-sister Sheinard Camber from her father's first marriage. She also had a step-sister Sarah Trevelyan, daughter of British film censor John Trevelyan, who married Porter's mother Rosalie later in life.

Her father was a psychoanalyst who kept his offices in the family home in the center of London’s medical district. From early on, Porter was exposed to the arts, frequenting the National Gallery, and immersing herself in drawing and painting. At age 6, she was given William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience which would later influence her visual style of writing.

Porter’s elementary education was at the City of London School for Girls. In her junior year, she was awarded scholarships to both Oxford and Cambridge. In honor of this, the school granted the students a day off, a privilege normally reserved only for the death of royalty. She chose Oxford and earned a First Class Honours degree in Modern Languages (French and Latin), graduating from Lady Margaret Hall in 1974. While an undergraduate at Oxford, she met John Porter, the son of Sir Leslie Porter and Lady Shirley Porter, the heir to the Tesco supermarket empire. After graduation, she and John moved to Paris where they married.

The young couple lived on the Quai Voltaire overlooking the Louvre. The marriage ended after five years and Porter relocated to New York in 1982, settling at the Hotel Des Artistes, where she would maintain residence for the remainder of her life.

Family Life

Porter met her second husband, Joseph Flicek, a technology entrepreneur, at an Amnesty International volunteer group in Manhattan. They married on July 2, 1985 in his native South Dakota and honeymooned in China. She based a series of paintings and the novel Floating Boundary on the trip to China. Frequent visits with Flicek’s family in South Dakota, led to her novel, Badlands.

The couple divided their time between Manhattan and Sag Harbor. Porter and Flicek had two sons, Robert and James. After Porter was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the family took up permanent residence in Sag Harbor for her convalescence. Porter passed away on October 9, 2008 at the age of 55.

Early career

While in Paris, Porter was a French cultural correspondent for The Times of London. She interviewed many notable figures including Francois Truffaut and Louis Malle. Porter also profiled directors Mike Nichols and Ingmar Bergman. A number of these interviews became part of her book, Through Parisian Eyes: Reflections on Contemporary French Arts and Culture.

Over her career with The Times, Porter interviewed personalities from film, literature, theater and human rights from around the world. Before meeting Saul Bellow, she read his twenty books in just thirty days and prior to interviewing directors, she would watch each of their films.

Interviews and Profiles

Body of Work

In addition to her journalism, Porter created a quantity of poetry, paintings, drawings, plays and films. Porter was known for combining painting with prose.

Oils, Watercolors and Drawings

  • Triptych Series – religious altar pieces, large oils on canvas
  • Barcelona Point Series – sky & water spiritual seascapes, large oils on canvas
  • Luminous Bodies Series– body and soul in mourning, watercolors on paper
  • Horses of Chauvet Series – mankind and horses for centuries, oils on canvas
  • Caves of Chauvet Series – spirits of the past merge with today, watercolors and oils
  • The Art of Love Series – all forms of expression of love, watercolors and oils
  • Night Angel Series – one woman musical, large oils on canvas
  • Earthly Fidelity Series – pleasure and pain of addictive love, watercolors
  • Frank Series – love relationships in the 1970s, watercolors
  • Wedding Series – autobiographical depiction of artist’s wedding, watercolors
  • China Series – images from China & Hong Kong travels, watercolors
  • Mother & Child or Birth Series – depicting mothers and newborns, watercolors
  • Déclarations D’Amour Series – illustrated poems from Paris, pen and ink
  • Badlands Series – elemental images of Pine Ridge, SD, oils and watercolors
  • Adolescence Series – paintings from artist’s childhood in London, watercolors
  • Playa Manuel Antonio Series – Pacific beaches of Costa Rica, oils
  • Arenal Volcan Series – tropical forests of Costa Rica, oils
  • Recuperation Series – getting better from cancer surgery, oils
  • Living in Lightness and Dark Series – themes of cancer convalescence, oils
  • Bliss Series – calming the emotions, pen and ink and watercolors
  • Self-Portraits Series – emotions of an artist, oils and watercolors
  • Icons Series – religious icon forms, small oils on untreated canvas
  • Waves and Particles Series – transformation following death, oils and watercolors

Non-Fiction

  • Through Parisian Eyes: Reflections on Contemporary French Arts and Culture (pub. 1986)
  • Art of Love: Love Poems and Paintings (pub. 1993)
  • The Arousal of Nature (pub. 2004)
  • Visions on Film: Portraits of Leading Contemporary Film Directors (pub. 2009)
  • William Blake Illuminates the Works of Melinda Camber Porter (pub. 2006)

Novels

  • Frank – forward by Saul Bellow
  • Boat Child: A Comedy (pub. 1994)
  • Badlands (pub. 1996) Book of the Month Club selection
  • Imogen
  • Floating Boundary – Book One: Hong Kong
  • Floating Boundary – Book Two: China Arrives
  • Floating Boundary – Book Three: Freedom or Tyranny
  • Child of the Western World

Stageplays

  • Journey to Benares’ A Rock Opera (perf. Asia Society Museum, NY)
  • Night Angel (perf. Lincoln Center’s Clark Theater)
  • Boat Child (perf. Denver Center for the Performing Arts)

Documentary Films

  • Vision on Film: Michael Apted (shorts I and II)
  • Luminous Journey (short)
  • The Art of Love: Paintings and Writings of Melinda Camber Porter (public television program 1994-1998)
  • Sacred Journey (television – Vision Television and APTN Canada 2001-2004)
  • Joyce Beroneo on Photography
  • The Kitchen (Paris in the 1970s)

Poetry Collections

  • Early Years – Poems as student in London
  • The Art of Love – love and relationships
  • Déclarations D’Amours – illustrated French poems from Paris
  • Healing – spiritual nature of healing
  • For Robert & James – love for her children
  • The Ritual:Volume I – from life in Paris
  • The Ritual: Volume II – from life in Paris
  • Expanse of Oceans & Seas – interactions with water
  • Gardens of Life – embraced by nature
  • Emotions – overwhelmed
  • Luminous Bodies – mourning ones loss
  • Women Embraced – spiritual feelings
  • Love Brings Conflicts – the unexplained
  • Earthly Fidelity – bonded to mother earth
  • Women and Horses – exchanges of energy
  • Human Conflicts – why
  • Where is God – religious searching
  • Into the Waves – a place after death
  • The Interviewer – communication by listening
  • Ancestors – parents and before
  • Finding Love – where in relationships
  • Illness – how to overcome
  • Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome – no one listens

Unfinished Works

  • Martin Scorsese – Visions on Film (documentary feature)
  • Michael Apted – Visions on Film (documentary feature)
  • Wim Wenders – Visions on Film (documentary feature)
  • Recuperation Series – watercolors, oils, poetry
  • A New Cosmology in Modern Art: Melinda Camber Porter (biography on the artist)

Public Exhibitions

  • British Consulate New York – A Retrospective of Ms. Porter’s Art and Literature – 2006
  • School of Visual Arts New York – Because of William Blake a New Art -2006
  • Paul Labrecque Salons New York – The Art of Horses and Lovers – 2005
  • Walter Wickiser Gallery New York – The Arousal of Nature – 2005
  • Art for Healing Gallery New York – The Art of Healing – 2005
  • Oxford University UK – William Blake Illuminates Ms. Porter’s Works (lecture by Robin Hamlyn, Senior curator of prints and drawings for Tate Museum) – 2004
  • Asia Society and Museum New York – Journey to Benares, a Rock Opera – 2003
  • Southampton College Southampton, NY – Native America Spirituality – 1999
  • The Nicolaysen Art Museum Casper WY – Art of Horses and Lovers – 1997
  • The Sioux Falls Civic Fine Arts Center SD – Badlands, Horses and Lovers – 1996
  • The Salon Des Artistes New York – The Film Censor’s Step-Daughter – 1996
  • The Foothills Art Center Golden, CO – Badlands, Horses and Lovers – 1996
  • Lincoln Center New York – Night Angel, a One-Woman Musical – 1996
  • The West Hartford Art League – Ms. Porter’s French Art, Film & Literature – 1995
  • L’Alliance Française de New Orleans – Ms. Porter’s French Art, Film & Literature – 1995
  • The Embassy of France Washington DC – Ms. Porter’s French Art, Film & Literature – 1994
  • L’Alliance Française de Miami – Ms. Porter’s French Art, Film & Literature – 1994
  • L’Alliance Française de San Francisco – Ms. Porter’s French Art, Film & Literature – 1994
  • L’Alliance Française de Houston – Ms. Porter’s French Art, Film & Literature – 1994
  • L’Alliance Française de Chicago – Ms. Porter’s French Art, Film & Literature – 1994
  • The French Library in Boston – Ms. Porter’s French Art, Film & Literature -1994
  • National Theatre Conservatory of the Denver – Boat Child, a Comedy – 1993
  • The French Cultural Embassy New York – Ms. Porter’s French Art, Film & Literature – 1993

Critical Praise

Below are some reviews from prominent publications and people.

  • The New York Times – “The subject of the sensual—what a human being can experience through the physical self and the senses, and the profound effect of that experience is at the heart of Ms. Camber Porter's output as both an artist and writer. . . This painter-novelist draws a line between erotic and obscene."
  • Saul Bellow – “The great “meltdown” of modern sexual anarchy is the real subject of Melinda Camber Porter's novel FRANK. To judge by the electronic speed of her narrative and the Stendhalian decisiveness of her characters she has learned all there is to learn about the anarchic phase (if it is a phase). Nevertheless she has some hope for a post-anarchic future. Even now, she seems to say, love is possible. A kind of love, perhaps. Some kind of love. Readers will understand, without coaching, what she means.”
  • Mike Nichols – “Frank is a pleasure in every way and is extremely well written. I don’t think of it so much as an erotic novel as a romantic one, although I see why it could be considered erotic. I liked the book very much.”
  • Joyce Carol Oates – "Badlands is a very strong, very intelligent and very intriguing novel."
  • Peter Matthiessen – "Melinda Camber Porter should be congratulated on BADLANDS: she knows her subject thoroughly; her vision is lyrical, yet unflinching. BADLANDS is an achievement."
  • Louis Malle – "Badlands is an extraordinary book. Its imagery makes one think of William Blake. Better than a novel, it reads like a fierce poem, with a devastating effect on our self-esteem."
  • Joan Didion – "In Badlands, Melinda Camber Porter has focused her English intelligence on America and rendered it as an uneasy dream of sex and death and abandonment, a mirage with the power of possession."
  • The New York Times – “Sensuality is at the heart of Porter's work. Badlands is a narrative with a weighty sensuality.”
  • San Francisco Chronicle – "For those passionate about French arts and culture, Melinda Camber Porter's Through Parisian Eyes is like a daylong trip to the candy store. Porter's eclectic gathering provides an area of interest for almost every palate. A well-rounded, intelligent look at the contemporary Parisian spirit."
  • Boston Sunday Globe – "Through Parisian Eyes is a particularly readable and brilliantly compiled collection. The voices of French intellectuals mingle in this uniquely constructed volume of interviews and commentary."
  • Philadelphia Inquirer – "Through Parisian Eyes is an inviting opportunity to tap into Paris' thinking... thanks to Porter's willingness to listen well and challenge when necessary."
  • Joyce Carol Oates – "The issues that are raised in Through Parisian Eyes are intriguing. It is very well done."

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