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Oct 17, 2008 1:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Melinda Camber Porter, prolific writer and artist, dies at 55

Oct 17, 2008 1:14 PM

Melinda Camber Porter, a renowned journalist, poet, author and artist, died of ovarian cancer on October 9 at her home in Sag Harbor. She was 55.

On the East End, Ms. Porter kept a low profile. An avid equestrian since her childhood in England, she rode at Topping Riding Club, Two Trees Stables and Sag Pond Stables on a regular basis and enjoyed walks at Barcelona Point and Havens Beach, according to her husband, Joseph Flicek, who added that she became known to many people in the community simply as “that woman who walks on the beach.”

She loved the light at the beach because it reminded her of Cornwall in her native England, and she created a number of paintings, some film work and written pieces using the location as her inspiration, he said.

The “Barcelona Point Series” is composed of 15 oil on canvas works executed by Ms. Porter between June 1997 and September 1998. A short film, “Luminous Journey,” describing the creation of the Barcelona Point series and a collection of her watercolor and pen and ink drawings, “Luminous Bodies,” has been broadcast on public television.

Ms. Porter also wrote about the arts. After graduating from Oxford University with first class honors in modern languages, she lived and worked in Paris for eight years and then in New York, working as a cultural correspondent for The Times of London.

While living and working in Paris, Ms. Porter interviewed some of the most influential French cultural figures of the time, including Andre Malraux, Francois Truffaut, Marguerite Duras, Louis Malle and Francoise Sagan. This period provided some of the material for her book, “Through Parisian Eyes: Reflections on Contemporary French Arts and Culture.”

While with The Times, she also did portraits, interviews and on-location reports with numerous noted film directors, including Mike Nichols, Ingmar Bergman, Bernardo Bertolucci, Peter Brook, John Cassavetes, Costa-Gavras, Federico Fellini, Akira Kurosawa, Eric Rohmer and John Huston.

Ms. Porter’s wedding in South Dakota in 1985 to Mr. Flicek and the subsequent time spent visiting his family there were the inspiration for a series of paintings and her novel, “Badlands,” a Book of the Month Club selection in May 1996 and probably her best known book in America.

Following a honeymoon in China, Ms. Porter wrote the novel, “Floating Boundary,” and created another series of paintings. Her other novels are “Frank,” “Imogen” and “Child of the Western World.”

The New York art dealer Leo Castelli selected 40 of Ms. Porter’s oils on canvas and watercolors for a 1993 exhibition of her work that spanned eight years and included 55 of her poems on the theme of love. The show, called “The Art of Love Tour,” traveled across 15 states from 1993 to 1997. A film entitled “The Art of Love: The Paintings and Writings of Melinda Camber Porter,” documenting the creation of this collection of her paintings and accompanying writing, was shown regularly on public television stations during that time.

Ms. Porter, who never had any formal training as a painter, also showed her works at: The School of Visual Arts of New York; Oxford University, Oxford, UK; Lincoln Center’s Clark Theatre and the Embassy of France and La Maison Francaise, Washington, D.C.

Her works include five novels, five plays, eight screenplays, thousands of poems in both English and French, and a trove of artwork including watercolors, oils, drawings and sketches. She also collaborated on several films and art books.

Ms. Porter met her husband at an Amnesty International meeting in Manhattan. He said that many of their acquaintances didn’t know about his wife’s prolific and diverse collection of work or that she was a celebrity in the art world.

“She was very kind and very much into her family” said Patty Archibald, a close friend and next-door neighbor for 18 years. Her son Declan is a close friend of Ms. Porter’s sons, Robert and James. “The family is very nice and down to earth” she said.

In discussing Ms. Porter’s fame, Ms. Archibald said, “She loved art, it was her life … she was very modest. She didn’t talk about it.”

Lenore Wright, a family friend who first met Ms. Porter when their children were young and attended the same school in Manhattan, described her as “90 pounds of fierce personality … to meet her was to never forget her.” She marveled at Ms. Porter beginning to ride horses competitively at age 45 as a way to encourage her sons to participate in the sport.

Born on September 9, 1953, in central London, Ms. Porter was raised in the house used for the film “My Fair Lady.” The daughter of a magistrate and a psychiatrist, she grew up with the National Gallery as her playground and a copy of William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience,” which had been given to her at the age of 6, as a reading favorite. She spent her childhood immersed in writing, drawing and painting.

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