The penultimate card in the series. I'm speaking to my printer this week, and getting a sense of what my timing will be in terms of finally getting these decks out to you. After the last card is done of course, I'll be putting together the overall design for the set and the box, as well as finishing up the design of the card backs. My goal at current is to get everything packaged up and off to the printers before the beginning of June.
The fourteenth trump of the tarot is another place where interpretations vary quite a bit, and I've ultimately decided to take it a direction of my own and use it to talk a little bit about the process of creating the series itself, as you'll see.
Older decks call this card Temperance, which was once a more commonly-used term for the practice of mixing wine with water. The image for this card as it appears in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, under the title "Temperance" features somewhat centrally in my piece in the form of a mural on the wall. The interpretation is often about the idea of temperance in opposition to extremism, seeking a middle road and mixing your anger and passion with calm and rationality as water is added to wine.
With the Thoth deck, Crowley kept the idea of mixing opposing elements but made this trump symbolic of the practice of alchemy, an aspect of what he called The Great Work. Crowley saw that one could mix and combine opposing elements; water and fire, red and white; and rather than diminishing both or canceling out their energy, it was possible to create from them something wholly new, with power unique to it's elemental parts.
The Thoth deck calls this trump Art, and so do I. It speaks about taking opposing pieces and finding a way to harmonize them, mix them, combine them into a new and unique whole. 'Solve et coagula' as the old alchemists say - dissolve and combine.
As an artist nearing the end of a very long series, I look back on what I've done with this deck and I see what I've done as a kind of creative alchemy. I've taken elements of what has come before, the old and the modern, ancient symbols and modern architecture, and sought to combine them in ways that bring those elements new power through juxtaposition. Art, as any artist can tell you, never grows in a vacuum. Creating new work is as much a process of learning to see, absorb, and process what others have done as it is about creating something new from whole cloth.
I make no illusions about what I've borrowed from those who've come before me, and try to give credit to those who contributed to the pieces I put my signature on. In this piece specifically, I've sampled the beautiful line work of Pamela Colman Smith's original Temperance card, and incorporated it into a modern setting, side by side with the work of dedicated (but anonymous, at least to me) graffiti artists who decorated the particular corner in Chinatown that I used as reference. Chandra Jessee, who modeled for this piece, also contributed quite a lot creatively to the evolution of the card's look. Part of that contribution was by way of providing all of her own costume elements, including a gorgeous pair of white feather wings who were made for her by yet another talented artist. And beyond that, any number of the textures and photos I make use of are stock images captured by hands that are not mine. As much as I am a creator, so too I am an alchemist, taking a pinch of this and a dab of that, putting mysterious components together in a pot and waiting to see what emerges.
The next update you'll be getting should be telling you about the very last card in the series. Prepare for the coming of the Universe.