I've taken a bit of an unplanned semi-vacation from the project over this past month, so I apologize for the long wait for this update. In return, I'm going to allow myself to ramble on a bit more than usual. Enjoy!
The Queen of Disks: The Matriarch
I was hoping this update would be my appropriately-timed Mother's Day update, but a nasty cold forced me to drop work midway. Having fussed over and thought over this piece for a few weeks, I'm delighted with all the little details in it but really glad to finally be done with it.
The Queen of Disks is Water in the context of Earth, the emotional center in the material realm. She is the power that turns hot food into family dinner, an unexpected windfall into a touching gift, a house into a home. She is strong and stable, sensible and reliable. But she is also sensitive and caring, the warm light that holds people together. Having neither Air nor Fire, the Queen of Disks will never be a leader in her own right, her greatness shows in the support she gives to others.
My model here is my grandmother, Janice Grossman, who passed away several years ago. I've known for a while I wanted to use her for this card - Janice is inseparable in my mind from all the trappings of her elegant Upper West Side life. Her home, her clothing, her jewelry, her hair. But when I tried to decide what photo I'd use for reference, I found myself in a bit of a quandary. What image of Janice did I want to use? The Janice of my childhood, who coddled and doted over me? Janice at the end of her life, when I moved in to take care of her instead? Young Janice, the New York socialite?
I soon realized that before I could compose an image, I needed to make a bit of a side trip down memory lane. So I compiled all the photos of Janice I could - those in storage in the apartment where she once lived, those in my parents' collection - and I went through hundreds of them, scanning and assembling the best of these into a chronological album of her life, from her first wedding in 1939 to when we lived together in 2005. I've posted them all in a Google+ album here:
I decided that what I really wanted to capture was that very particular knowing smile she had, a quiet half-smirk that seemed to say "I know what you're up to, you can't pull one over on me." The scene that I wanted to depict I had no real reference for, but I remember very well - a passover seder at my grandparents' home. The scene is set around 1993, when I was 13 years old. My parents and my uncle sit on one side of the table, my younger sister and myself on the other, mostly obscured. My grandfather would have sat on the opposite side, theoretically the leader of the seder service, although in reality he was a very quiet man when I knew him.
Many of the elements of the dining room I've chosen to depict are long gone - the hutch, the table, the mirror, the chairs, even my grandparents' old dishware were eventually sold at auction. The sunburst behind Janice's head is inspired directly by a mirror she had on her wall, also sold to help pay for Janice's nursing home care. Only that chandelier still hangs just as it did, in the room that is now my living room. I pieced together the scene from bits of old photos and from my own unreliable memories.
The room as it looks now (for the particularly curious): https://plus.google.com/photos/113639566912606521037/albums/5874927066258306321?authkey=CNHqjbr70v2gRA
Once I had the basic idea of the scene, I could see that I didn't really have the detailed reference I needed for the pose itself. So I employed my sister Carolyn to play the part of Janice for me. As it happens, she's inherited much of Janice's old wardrobe, and so could easily put together an outfit that was perfect for the photo shoot. The purse she brought, going by the initials on the clasp, may actually have belonged to Janice's mother originally.
A couple of minor notes: I transformed the pair of columns framing the room to resemble spiraling horns as a reference to the goat horns (actually a markhor, according to Crowley) that feature heavily on the Thoth version of this card. The orange that I've put on the seder plate would definitely not have been there at our family seder in '93, but it's there at our seder in recent years - I encourage you to look up the symbolism of it's placement if you're not familiar with the practice.
Moving forward, I'd like to finish up the rest of the Disks in short order and move right onto the last suit. I have another grandmother - my grandmother-in-law actually - who's modeled for the last queen, and her birthday is coming up fairly soon.