It goes without saying that Jim and I are very visual people. I’m actually surprised that it took us this long to connect our paintings to the Tarot. As strong believers in Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious and the power of archetypes, our paintings consistently feature elements that we pull from that collective well into our own imagination and transfer to the canvas or panel. We have always done this very instinctually, seldom consciously deciding to use an element because we wanted to symbolize something in particular, but rather letting the images flow naturally because they felt right. Interpretation came later, after some distance from the creation of the piece, like a kind of dream analysis.
Our paintings share something in common with the tarot cards. When people look at them they make connections based on who they are and what’s going on in their lives at that specific moment in time. The combination and composition of the elements and objects in the painting trigger a need in people to make meaning. This meaning is drawn not only from their personal experiences and who they are but also from that great well of shared experience – the collective unconscious.
When we’re successful, this creates connections between the viewer and the painting and us, the artists. We have called this a dialog, not a monologue. We’re not talking at you, telling you what the story is, we’re giving you a jumping off point to tell your story.
We’ve noticed for years that when couples have approached our paintings, one person has one reaction and the other may have a totally different one – which of course sparks a dialog between them (and sometimes an argument) and then we also get pulled into the conversation. Our response, if they are looking for arbitration, is always “you’re both right”. Everything needs to be understood in context.
My interest in tarot has gone back years, to my early twenties – fascinated by the little stories in each of the minor arcana and the sometimes comforting and sometimes frightening images in the major arcana. We have actually used the cards as painting prompts to get our imaginations activated, but we never thought to actually paint the cards themselves.
Into the Woods
We are making an intensive study of the cards in the Major Arcana, through our particular collaborative way of working, taking a trip in The Forest of Souls, a walk through the Tarot (as Rachel Pollack wrote about in her book of that title). We invite you to join us in this journey by signing up for a special mailing list dealing just with this subject (sign up at the bottom of this post). We will still be painting all sorts of paintings and commissions during this project as well, but this is a special project.
In general we plan to paint them in order, starting with The Fool, but we’ve already broken that rule and painted two that just felt so in tune with our past work that they seemed a good bridge to this project.
“Our actual knowledge of the unconscious . . . contains all aspects of human nature…light and dark, beautiful and ugly, good and evil”
-Carl Jung Man and His Symbols
Fortune telling is not for us. We wouldn’t have the presumption to say we know or could know what the higher powers know. We see Tarot as a tool for self-knowledge. The imagery can be a catalyst to reach and communicate with your unconscious, your deeper wisdom. It is a non-verbal language, using pictures to access where words cannot reach.
And what is it trying to say to us? It’s a visual vocabulary about the entirety of human existence condensed into 78 pictures.
What we value
What we fear
What we celebrate
What we resist
56 of those cards deal with day-to-day ordinary existence. 22 deal with the big lessons in life; the experiences that change us, the major archetypes that interested Jung and Joseph Campbell – The Major Arcana. We’re focusing on those 22 cards.
So with the open heart and trust of The Fool, we start this journey. Let’s see what we learn!