On Saturday night I went to the opening reception for the “Pieces from the Elora Tarot Deck” exhibition at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto, and luxuriated in an atmosphere of warmth and community, surrounded by artists and lovers of Tarot. The gallery was happily noisy and full, with over-heated guests admiring the artwork while dancing (some barefoot) to live music and enjoying a drink or two.
Elora is a small town in Ontario well known for natural beauty and hiking trails, as well as a vibrant artistic community. Local resident and Tarot reader, Shelley Carter, co-ordinated the collaborative creation of The Elora Tarot Deck, inviting 65 artists from Elora and the surrounding area to create one to three Tarot images using their medium of choice. These images were then photographed, and used to produce the deck. The exhibition at the Gladstone featured a selection of these original works, mounted next to small copies of the RWS Tarot images that inspired them. The variety of mediums used was quite astonishing, including collage, oils, photography, found objects, mixed media and mosaic. Each work was accompanied by an explanation of what the card means to the artist, and some background as to why they chose to represent it as they did. The layout and rich descriptive panels made this exhibition very approachable for experts and for guests with little or no Tarot knowledge.
In many cases the pieces on display were fearlessly personal and very moving. I was particularly affected by one of the works created by deck co-ordinator, Shelley Carter. She used collage, including a photo of her own daughter, to bring the High Priestess to life quite hauntingly. The image of The Devil, done in acrylic and charcoal by Tim Murton (which can be seen on the event poster above) is one of the most frightening and humorous that I have ever seen.
When I was buying my own copy of the deck, I had the chance to chat with Shelley. She mentioned that a Tarot-themed tour of Italy had truly changed her life, and had inspired her to start the Elora Tarot Project which culminated in the Elora Tarot Deck. Although the deck can be appreciated as a multifaceted work of art in itself, Shelley assured me that she also feels very comfortable doing readings with it.
I highly recommend this deck, as a device for meditation and art appreciation, as an example of what can be produced through community and co-operation, and as a working Tarot deck. The more I look through the deck, the more the images keep running through my subconscious mind, connecting with how I see the traditional Tarot images and making me contemplate further what the artists saw, and why they decided to depict the images as they did.
Get your own copy of the Elora Tarot Deck
The deck can be purchased at www.eloratarot.com. This is a great site that allows you to explore all of the card images and learn about about the entire project.
Live music at the reception was performed by Adam Shaw (firstname.lastname@example.org). He played the entire B side of Abbey Road, non-stop, alone on guitar, most impressive.