The Eclipsed Tarot
To all my wonderful models and supportive instructors...
When most people hear the word “tarot” they think of magic, gypsies, witches, and of fortune tellers brought to life by Hollywood. A tarot deck, however, is a very real tool used by many individuals for countless reasons from religious practice to meditation. Contrary to what cinema tells us, tarot does not tell the future. It is not a magical artifact used to see what our lives have in store, but rather a tool used to aid in conflict and decision-making during rough or tumultuous times. Skilled readers must study, practice, and meditate with their cards often in order to understand their meanings and nuances. I myself have studied and practiced with tarot since my teen years, and so I’ve begun a long process of integrating this important spiritual tool with my own artistic practice to create a deck of my very own that I can share with the world.
Traditional tarot decks are composed of 78 cards divided into what is called the major and minor arcanas. For the sake of time and resources, I’ve decided to make a very special limited series comprised only of the 22-card major arcana. It is very unusual to see a deck whose images aren’t illustrated, which was a huge challenge when interpreting the images into black and white 35 mm photographs. In my artistic practice I do not use much photo manipulation, and so I was also avidly against doctoring my images in any way for this project. I wanted each image to be perfectly staged in-camera, giving it an almost theater production feel. I was also heavily influenced by baroque painters, such as Carravagio, as well as greek and roman statues. Each image is very carefully composed to elicit the proper meaning of each individual card, such as with Death: ominous but not foreboding, with her bouquet of dried flowers, beckoning the viewer to take advantage of the time and opportunities they are given. While I have stayed very true to the original meanings (with heavy inspiration from the classic Rider-Waite-Smith illustrated deck) I’ve also taken some liberties with interpretation, such as featuring a lesbian couple for The Lovers card and a trans man with his top surgery scars subtly visible for The Emperor as the classic male archetype.
Just as process is incredibly important when learning and practicing with a tarot deck, the process for creating the images and printing the cards was vital to the success of my deck as both a spiritual tool and an art piece. Each image is taken on 35 mm film and an intaglio printmaking process called solar plating was used to produce the final prints. Additionally, the gilded borders and card backs were applied with silkscreen processes. While many of the tools and tactics I utilized were based on personal choice and aesthetic, what was most important was the hands-on tactility of bringing the tangible images to life. Just as tarot requires great dedication to master, I wanted to rise to meet that dedication with the rigorous process. The fact that I made these images with my hands, and not simply slaving away at a computer screen, is what makes the final product so rewarding to me as both an artist and a practicer.
Rue Myles (& Halle)