Notebook: Page 9
Following up . . .
I left off Notebook: Page 8 with the promise of more information about two women cited on “the list”:
I can’t figure out how I would even have known about the Mary Fish article in an obscure journal, unless I was awesomely resourceful about library research. And I can’t have gotten the reference from Stuart Kaplan’s Encyclopedia of Tarot, since it’s not included until Volume III, which didn’t come out until 1990.
But (of course!) it’s right there now—in a two-page spread (364-365).
I didn’t think first of looking at E of T, since I didn’t realize from my note that Fish’s article was actually about her elaborate Tarot-related art project. But thanks to today’s information access, I quickly found out from an article in Artjournal that Fish’s work appeared in several gallery exhibitions in 1981.
There are no pictures of the work in the article, but there are three in E of T. Since they are reproduced in black and white, they don’t scan well—and as it turns out, the descriptions are placed beneath the wrong paintings in two cases.
Luckily, though, I found one color photo, and paired it up with the proper text:
Here’s the artist’s description, quoted in E of T:
Transmutation: A Study in Systems Substitution
“is the visual documentation of a Trillium flower passing from bud to blossom to impending seed. The Trillium images preempt those tarot Trump's which would normally fall in sequence between The Empress on the left and The Hanged Man on the right. Thus the plant system merges with the occult system to become one and the same.”
It’s 33” x 56”, done in silverpoint pen, ink, and egg tempera. The other two works reproduced in E of T are (according to descriptions in Artforum):
Great One of the Night of Time (Reversed): A Meditation on Time and the Tarot, which “shows a tarot configuration superimposed on a background covered with line drawings of morning glories, passing from their open to their closed state as the viewer reads from left to right.”
Morphologically Speaking . . . A Contrapuntal Meditation is “a 40-by-75-inch drawing on pale green paper of the Sephiroth Spread, a complex arrangement based loosely on the Tree of Life diagram of the Cabala.”
The artist’s statement explains her work this way:
The inspiration for these drawings has come from two ongoing rituals . . . which reflect the concepts of both time and change. One is passive. I call it the ritual of “watching,” for it involves my observing and documenting, at set intervals of time, the flowers in my garden as they pass from bud to blossom, then die back and form seed. The other is active. I refer to it as the ritual of “knowing,” for in it and again at set and frequent intervals of time, I spread the tarot cards asking the cards to give me a general outlook for the period of time that lies immediately ahead.
As these two rituals have become a part of my life, the rhythm of one has intermingled with that of the other. The morphology of the systems explored by the two rituals fascinates me, for each, whether plant or tarot, has an indigenous form and structure and passes through its own particular cycle. Each system employs its own pattern and incorporates its own concept of time: plant time being tangible, measured, while tarot time is intangible and ambiguous. Each represents a way of knowing: empirical knowledge in contrast to that which is intuitive.
There’s more in the E of T, if you happen to have Volume III.
For my part—I’m struck yet again by the diverse ways in which Tarot inspires creativity and the complexity of its influences. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out more about Mary Fish’s life and work, except that in 1975 she produced a privately printed book describing/illustrating a ritual she created in relation to her monthly cycle. It looks fascinating!
I ran out of time! Ithell must wait for tomorrow’s note—which will also offer a few recommendations, and a look ahead. C