Posts Tagged 'Tarot'

Reading the Cards: Part 4

This post is the fourth in a larger series finding connections between the ever-mystical tarot cards and the extraordinary collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. Head over to the first, second, and third posts for an introduction and earlier connections.

The Magician is the first trump card in a tarot deck.  Shown as a youthful figure, the Magician is often thought to represent Apollo, the Greek sun god.  This association speaks to bringing light to the darkness and addressing avoided issues.

Benjamin West, Apollo's Enchantment, 1807, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Robert A. Beyers

Benjamin West, Apollo’s Enchantment, 1807, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Robert A. Beyers

Surrounded by the pantheon of Greek gods and muses, Benjamin West’s Apollo is bathed in the light of the sun.  Apollo enchants his audience with his skill at the lyre, as he is the god of music as well as the sun.

The Moon is the eighteenth major arcana card.  With the face of the subconscious mind gazing calmly upon the scene, the Moon depicts a dog, wolf, and water creature of sorts (in this case a lobster).  The card often represents sleep patterns, dreams, and nightmares- with the animals shown symbolizing the fears of man.

Rufino Tamayo, El Hombre (Man), 1953, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association commission, Neiman-Marcus Company Exposition Funds

Rufino Tamayo, El Hombre (Man), 1953, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association commission, Neiman-Marcus Company Exposition Funds

Surrounding the theme of “man excelling himself,” Rufino Tamayo created the mural El Hombre as a commision for the Dallas Art Association.  Tamayo’s painted figure points into the starry sky in search of our place in the cosmos.  The dog in the lower-left corner blends into the dark ground as it gnaws on a bone- representing man’s baser instincts.

The Star is the seventeenth trump card.  Contributing liquid to both the pool of subconsciousness and the material world, a naked woman kneels directly beneath an exaggerated star.  In a tarot spread, the Star represents renewed hope, inspiration, and discovery.

Simon Starling, Venus Mirror (8/6/08, Copenhagen), 2011, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund

Simon Starling, Venus Mirror (8/6/08, Copenhagen), 2011, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund

Simon Starling’s mirror alludes to the original documentation of the planet Venus’ path accross the sky by Pierre César Jules Janssen.  Undertaken in 1974, the French astronomer developed a special daguerreotype camera to document Venus’ movement.  The telescope-camera hybrid recorded the multiple exposures on a single circular daguerreotype plate.

Strength is numbered as eleven or eight depending on the deck.  Historically titled Fortitude, the design has consistenly portrayed a lion submitting to the gentle touch of a woman.  When selected for a tarot reading, the card implies one’s control of the primal qualities of man.

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom, 1846-1847, Dallas Museum of Art, The Art Museum League Fund

Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdom, 1846-1847, Dallas Museum of Art, The Art Museum League Fund

Based on Christian scripture, Edward Hicks created a scene of spiritual and earthly harmony amongst men and animals.  At the left side of the painting, William Penn signs a peace treaty with the Native American peoples of the Delaware Valley- a historic model for peaceful coexistence.

The Sun is the nineteenth of the major arcana cards.  Riding beneath the anthropomorphized sun, a small child sits astride a white horse- both symbols of innocence and purity.  With the red flag representing renewal, this card points to personal power, optimism, and enlightenment.

Constantin Brancusi, Beginning of the World, c.1920, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark

Constantin Brancusi, Beginning of the World, c.1920, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark

Provocative in nature, the sculpture’s title, Beginning of the World, is full of potential associations.  When paired with the simple geometric and natural shapes, the title hints to new beginnings, concepts, and discoveries.

My next and final Reading the Cards post will look at Temperance, the Tower, the Wheel of Fortune, and the World.

Pilar Wong

McDermott Intern for Community Teaching

Reading the Cards: Part 3

This post is the third in a larger series finding connections between the ever-mystical tarot cards and the extraordinary collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. Head over to the first and second posts for an introduction and earlier connections.

The Hierophant is the fifth trump card and is occasionally referred to as the Pope.  The term hierophant literally means one who teaches holy things.  With two fingers pointing skyward and two downward, the Hierophant’s hand raised in benediction forms a bridge between heaven and earth.  This card represents seeking guidance from positive role models as the Hierophant is seen as a pillar of the community.

Standing power figure (nkisi nkondi),Yombe peoples, late 19th to early 20th century, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the McDermott Foundation

Minkisi (the plural term for nkisi) are containers for magical substances or medicines that empower them to protect the community against negative forces.  This standing power figure belongs to a class of minkisi called nkondi.  The term translated is “hunter” of wrongdoers in matters of civil law.  Truly a pillar of the community, the hunter is simultaneously chief, doctor, priest and judge.

The High Priestess is the second major arcana card in a tarot deck.  She is represented in plain robes wearing a horned diadem on her head and a large cross on her chest.  The High Priestess is always shown between two pillars- one white and one black.  Labeled “B” and “J,” the columns represent Boaz and Jachin of the mystic Temple of Solomon.  This card is associated with knowledge, love, and common sense.

Matthew Barney, CREMASTER 3: Hiram Abiff, 2002, Dallas Museum of Art, Contemporary Art Fund: Gif of Arlene and john Dayton, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon E. Faulconer, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant M. Hanley, Jr., Margurerite and Robert K. Hoffman, Cindy and Howerd Rachofsky, Deedie and Rusty Rose, Gayle and Paul Stoffel, and three anonymous donors; DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund; and Roberta Coke Camp Fund

Cast by Matthew Barney in the film CREMASTER 3, American sculptor Richard Serra portrays the master architect of the Chrysler building.  In this freeze frame, Serra stands in front of two industrial columns, a reference to two pillars designed by Hiram Abiff, the mythic architect of Solomon’s Temple, who possessed knowledge of the mysteries of the universe.

Judgement is the twentieth trump card in the tarot deck.  Modeled after the Christian resurrection prior to the final judgmenet day, the scene depicts an angel, likely Gabriel, descending to earth sounding a trumpet.  Below, grayish men, women, and children celebrate the angel’s arrival with open arms as they emerge from crypts and graves.  When used for divination purposes the card signals an impending judgement or the resurrection of past errors.

Emma-O, late 16th-early 17th century, Dallas Museum of Art, Wendover Fund in memory of Alfred and Juanita Bromberg an dthe Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund

The title Emma-O is the Japanese translation of Yama, the Hindu god of death.  Based in Buddhism, the idea of Emma-O as the King of Hells originated in China before spreading to Japan.  Wearing the costume of a Chinese judge, Emma-O was thought to determine how your spirit would be reincarnated in your next life.  He was seen as a beneficient power despite his snarling face, which was thought to avert evil.

Justice is numbered either eight or eleven depending on the deck .  Shown seated and holding the scales of justice and the equalizing sword aloft, Justice meditates on various claims of right, morality, and duty.  When Justice appears in a spread, the card signals an injustice that requires righting.

Helmet mask (gye), Guro peoples, mid-20th century, Dallas Museum of Art, The otis and Velma Davis Dozier Fund

The most powerful of masks, gye represent the highest judicial authority.  A person wearing such a mask can judge disputes, negotiate peace treties, and make momentous decisions on behalf of the community.  Worn while dancing atop burning coals, this mask depicts the trustworthy and loyal African buffalo.

The Lovers is the sixth trump card in a tarot deck.  Still nude, Adam and Eve flank the cherub that is presumably ordering them from the Garden of Eden.  Representing the impulse that drove Adam and Eve from the Garden, the Lovers exemplify the transition from innocence to experience.  This transition could manifest due to curiosity, desire, or duty.

Henry Koerner, June Night, 1948-1949, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Joshua L. Logan

An example of magic realism, Henry Koerner’s June Night is a glance at life after leaving the garden.  Contrasting blissful wedding connotations with the harsh qualities of a brick apartment building, this painting comments on the realities of married life, post-honeymoon phase.  The crying child painted on the lower wall brings to mind late night feedings and diaper changes.

Stay tuned for my next post featuring the Magician, the Moon, the Star, Strength, and the Sun.

Pilar Wong
McDermott Intern for Community Teaching

Reading the Cards: Part 2

This post is the second in a larger series finding connections between the ever-mystical tarot cards and the extraordinary collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.  Head over to the first post for an introduction and a quick look at three card-art comparisons.

The Emperor is the fourth trump card within the major arcana.  He is often depicted sitting on a throne and holding a scepter and shield.  The tarot Emperor is considered the absolute ruler of the world and represents the desire to control one’s surroundings.

Vishnu and attendants, c. 1026 AD, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. John Leddy Jones

Richly jeweled as a king would be, Vishnu can be identified in this relief by his traditional attributes: a mace, conch shell, sun wheel (chakra), and beads.  He is shown as a calm, upright figure surrounded by his heavenly court and divine kingdom.  As the Preserver to Shiva’s destruction, Vishnu is the bringer of blessings and prosperity to his followers.

 

The Empress is the third major arcana card in a tarot deck.  The Empress holds a scepter representing her power over life, wears a twelve-starred crown asserting her dominance over the year, and sits on a throne amidst a field of grain showcasing her control over growing things.  Occasionally shown pregnant, the Empress represents creation and abundance.

Madonna and Child, early 15th century, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Crowned as the Queen of Heaven, Mary sways gracefully as she supports her son Jesus.  Prophetic in nature, the sculpture displays Mary’s distress resulting from her foreknowledge of her son’s fate.  This portrayal of the Virgin and Child exemplifies Mary’s role as mother and Jesus’ role as savior.

 

The Fool is normally unnumbered, though occasionally represented as zero in the major arcana.  He represents the search for experience and a childlike wonder at the workings of the world.  The Fool is often accompanied by a dog representing the distractions of the “real world.”  Standing at the edge of a cliff, the Fool is oblivious to danger and recklessly seeks out adventure.

Alberto Giacometti, Three Men Walking, 1948-1949, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus

Artist Alberto Giacometti said that he sculpted figures as people actually looked to him.  Stick-like in nature, the three bronze figures wander dangerously close to the edge of an elevated platform.  Each faces a different direction as if eager to seek out his or her own adventure.

 

The Hanged Man is the twelfth trump card in a tarot deck.  Depicted as a man suspended from a tree, the Hanged Man’s symbolism often points to the crucifixion of Christ, Osiris in Egyptian mythology, Mithras in Ancient Persian mythology, and Odin in Norse mythology.  The Hanged Man card and these archetypal stories all allude to the destruction of self bringing life to humanity.

Octavio Medellín, El Ahorcado (The Hanged One), c. 1942, Dallas Museum of Art, Kiest Memorial Purchase Prize, Fourteenth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibition, 1943

Raised amidst the ravages of the Mexican Civil War, Octavio Medellí drew much of his inspiration from the Maya-Toltec cultures.  El Ahorcado (The Hanged One) is thought to symbolize Mexico’s effort to free itself from centuries of colonial subjugation and its struggle to find its own democratic path.

 

The Hermit is the ninth major arcana card.  He is shown as an elderly man carrying a staff in one hand and a lit lantern in the other- both signs of wisdom and knowledge.  Sparse in design, the card’s background is mostly sky with the lower portion depicting a wasteland and mountain range in the distance.  The Hermit has already learned the lessons of life throughout his journey and represents a shamanistic hero.

Portrait of an Arhat, 13th century, Dallas Museum of Art, the Roberta Coke Camp Fund, and Lillian B. Clark

Contemplating a lotus flower, this monk represents an arhat.  Arhats were holy men who were originally disciples of the Buddha.  Though they achieved extraordinary spiritual levels, arhats put off their own enlightenment in the pursuit of helping others.

My next post will look at the Hierophant, the High Priestess, Judgment, Justice, and the Lovers!

Pilar Wong

McDermott Intern for Community Teaching

Reading the Cards: Part 1

On a recent trip to New York, I finally had my cards read by a psychic–something that I’ve always wanted to have done!  As she was telling me about a tall, dark, stranger in my future I couldn’t help but notice the vibrant, graphic nature of her card deck. With their flat color planes, Romanesque figures, and dramatic styling, the cards each told a specific portion of the larger tale.

While tarot cards were originally used throughout Europe to play card games, they have become associated in modern culture with mysticism and magic. The deck is divided into two sections: the minor arcana and major arcana. The former is very similar to a modern deck of cards with four suits consisting of ten pip (numbered 2 through 10) and four court cards. The major arcana cards are those most often associated with tarot divination.

This post is my first in a series that will make connections between individual tarot cards and artworks in the DMA’s collection. I’ll share works from our collection that are reminiscent of a card’s imagery or of the card’s meaning in divination practices.

The Chariot is the seventh trump or major arcana card. The card normally depicts a royal figure in a chariot being pulled by horses or sphinxes–one black and one white. A sign of an external battle of wills, the white and black horses often pull in different directions. In a tarot spread, the card can refer to current obstacles or successes in overcoming life’s challenges.

Théodore Géricault, Horse-drawn Cart Full of Wounded Soldiers (Chariot Chargé de Soldats Blessés), 1818, Dallas Museum of Art, Juanity K. Bromberg Memorial Fund and gift of an anonymous donor

This lithograph not only depicts a horse-drawn carriage, but it also exemplifies many of the qualities of the chariot card. Fatigued and wounded soldiers are clearly returning from battle, perhaps even a losing battle. The horses are pulling in so many directions that they are tangling their harnesses and fighting with each other.

Death is the thirteenth major arcana card in a tarot deck. Death is depicted by a skeleton riding a horse and is often shown surrounded by dead and dying people. Despite its name, the card does not represent actual death. Instead, it usually signifies an ending of an era or relationship.

Dakini Vajravarahi, c. A.D. 1600, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the Virginia C. and Flyd C. Ramsey Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc.

Adorned with a necklace of skulls and carrying an executioner’s ax, this dakini, a Buddhist female deity, represents the violent aspects of existence. She also embodies the cycle of life, death, and rebirth which celebrates death as a bringer of life.

The Devil is the fifteenth major arcana card. Tarot images of the Devil show him as a satyr-like creature sitting above or on two humans. If selected during a card reading, the Devil represents self-bondage or barriers to leading a full life. Often, these obstacles are interpreted as vices such as materialism, lust, egotism, etc.

Ferdinand Hodler, The Halberdier, 1895, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund and gift of Nona and Richard Barrett

While Ferdinand Hodler’s The Halberdier actually depicts a Swiss soldier, this image seemed like the perfect choice to represent the Devil. Clothed in a traditional red costume and holding a spiked battle-axe, the soldier evokes several connotations we hold concerning the Devil.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will look at the Emperor, the Empress, the Fool, the Hanged Man, and the Hermit.

Pilar Wong
McDermott Intern for Community Teaching


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