Reminded at Depth that Tarot is No Thing with Which to Fuck Around

About a year ago towards the end of June 2013, I finally started to paint my Tarot deck. I knew at the time that I was undertaking the largest and most challenging body of work of my entire career, but I had no idea that by the time a year had passed I would find myself so psychically and emotionally drained.

I think of my Tarot as one work of art made up of 22 paintings, each of which is 5 feet high and 3 ½ feet wide. Aside from the basic fact that undertaking one work that is in total 73.33 feet long and 5 feet tall is a hell of a lot of hard work. In retrospect, this series was incredibly demanding in terms of finances, material, and labor. This does not include the cost of a full time studio assistant and a DUMBO studio. That’s the easy part.

When I first started the series, the card imagery veritably poured out of me in spite of working with a totally repaired rotator cuff on my left arm which I had dislocated from the shoulder. I would work on three or four at a time, take a brief break from the Cards to paint a landscape or two – memories from the south of France – and then dive back in. I hardly needed to look at the paintings; they were just right.

It is a year later. Yesterday I completed Judgment. Both The Lovers and The Wheel of Fortune are nearly complete and The World is well underway and I just started my last card, Strength.

Until recently, the paintings were still flowing; I did not need to think about them nor was I exhausted at the end of the day. These last five paintings are more demanding than the first 17. However, as with anything else I do, once I have committed I will see a project through. I will finish the entire series of 22 Major Arcana, and I have every intention of doing so by the end of the month.

This level of exhaustion reminds me of the result of having harkened to my mentor, Jan Cox, at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Jan said “You cannot think of yourself as a printmaker unless you print an entire edition in one day.” I hand-printed an entire edition of 40 stone lithographs by myself in one day. I went upstairs to the Museum School Gallery, laid my head on the soft stone floor and passed out for four hours.


For an in-depth statement about the genesis and development of the series, please see the project specific statement.