The project had a mind of its own

Tara, hi!
Thank you very much for participating in this interview with us. Unpacking the deck, we observed your beautiful artwork and wondered how your journey to create The Telezma Tarot had been.
What was your process for creating the handmade collage and how were you able to make magazine cut outs into a coherent story?
My process in this medium involves sitting down with a stack of old magazines and books (mostly late 20th Century National Geographics, Playboys etc. although I will use any and all available materials) and cutting out pictures that I find beautiful, compelling and/or intriguing. Then, either after cutting things out or in another session, I will arrange the pieces, discovering how they seem to want to merge together to create a new image. The way this happens is a little mysterious and hard to explain. The right symbolic objects, characters, textures and color schemes always seem to find each other. When the entire composition has reached completion or near completion I will glue it all together on paper. In creating this deck, sometimes the process of correlating the found image to the essence of the card I was seeking to portray was more intuitive, sometimes more intentional. As I worked I came to realize that the project had a mind of its own.

I think this medium lends itself very naturally to the format of Tarot. The 78 cards of Tarot all relate to different aspects of living in the World, whether they be the overarching themes/pivotal plot points of the Major Arcana, the situations, circumstances and associated emotions of Minor Arcana or the character types of the Court Cards. That's what you see portrayed in the visual media of our culture too, scenes of life.

Collage and Tarot also seem like a perfect match to me because the process of deconstructing the remnants of culture and recombining them to express a new vision mirrors the alchemical concept of solve et coagula (dissolve and coagulate), which is deeply embedded in the philosophy of the Tarot. The Lovers card relates to the dissolving part of the process, the Art card (aka Temperance) to the coagulation. This seems to be the basic formula for creating any kind of change; taking things apart and putting them back together.
Would you mind telling us what specific cards mean to you? – Five of Cups and The Moon
The Five of Cups is about pain, loss and grief. It can be the pain felt when someone close to you dies or leaves, or when some part of your life or identity is dismantled. It is the number of change and disruption in the element of the emotions. It is the planet of war and passion in the sign of our deepest feelings.

A user of this deck recently observed that all rites of passage, not just funerals but weddings and graduations too, mark a certain kind of death and loss as we move from one chapter to the next. The finely dressed people in the lower right corner of this card beneath the arched gateway seem to point to such ritual celebrations of change.

In the foreground, a red car similar to that seen on the Chariot card cruises along the continuum of the cosmos in the form of a soundwave, another harbinger of movement from one state to the next. Above this, a woman dressed in black lovingly touches the forehead of a dead man lying in his coffin, surrounded by funerary flowers. From this tableau emerges an ethereal figure wearing blood red, seemingly an angel of Death, or a personification of the mourner's grief. She holds the Loteria card El Corazon, the Heart, which depicts a human heart impaled by an arrow, and is crowned by an Eagle, one of the three animal symbols of Scorpio. Behind this scene, we see images of holding hands, the night sky crying blood red tears, and Jesus suffering on the cross.

This is not a fun card to get or an enjoyable part of life. No one likes feeling the pain of loss and separation. But it's important to acknowledge these feelings and let yourself truly grieve for what is lost in order to welcome new joys with an open heart.

The Moon card is about the night side of life: our dreams, our instincts, our feelings, our intuitive sense and all that is unknown to us. This is a vast realm, as there is much more that we don't know about the universe than what we do. The ocean is a perfect symbol of this enormous mystery: it covers most of the Earth and in some ways its darkest depths are currently less understood than distant galaxies. Like our own subconscious minds, the ocean is so close to us, so essential for sustaining our lives, and also so full of questions and monstrous creatures.

The central figure of the Moon card, dressed in an outlandish lunar silver Carnival costume, has turned away from the viewer and the outer world to pursue the depths of the mystery, guided by the light of the Moon.

The two towers traditionally seen on this card have been replaced here by ancient sculptures of acrobats, pointing both to a sense of playfulness and the amazing balancing act that humans have done to negotiate passages through strange times in their lives for millennia.

This card relates to times when you venture forth despite the fact that your path is obscured by darkness. You summon the courage to continue without knowing what will come next. I feel like this is expressed beautifully in a passage from the Book of Thoth's chapter on the Moon: “Whatever horrors may afflict the soul, whatever abominations may excite the loathing of the heart, whatever terrors may assail the mind, the answer is the same at every stage: “How splendid is the Adventure!"
In translating your ideas using magazine cut pictures, what challenges did you face? Did you have trouble finding the right picture? Did you have to create your own?

Somehow I always seemed to find the right picture. I didn't print anything out for this and was totally at the mercy of the materials I had available to me. I'm not sure how, but everything fell into place. Sometimes it just took a little while to find the image I was looking for, and often something even better appeared while I was searching.

One of the challenges I did face was that because of the chaotic way the deck came together, I didn't even have a standard size for the images until I was almost done making all of them. I know this sounds crazy, and next time I make a deck I will definitely make sure I know what size paper I'm working with from the start! Since they all came out different dimensions, near the very end of the process I had to crop some and add more to the borders of others.

Another challenge was simply being on the emotional roller coaster most artists probably go through while working on a big project that signifies an important point on their creative path. I was often oscillating between “This is amazing! I'm a genius!” and “This is garbage. WTF am I even doing?”

I didn't have a whole lot of external input while I was working on this, so I was just kind of hoping it would make sense to others when it was done.

As I looked at the images in the deck, I felt as if I was watching a Bollywood movie. If you were to make a movie out of this, what would the core message be?

Okay, I love this question. I can definitely see the Bollywood movie thing. It has that bold, colorful, dramatic, kinda campy vibe. And there is absolutely a connection in my mind between Tarot and theatre/film.

I would say this particular movie's message seems to be:
Life is a magical adventure. The World is alive and is always communicating with us. There's beauty everywhere, even in the terrible parts. Every challenge has a way to be overcome. Creativity is love, and love wins.

 These were great questions and I really enjoyed answering them.

Tara Cochrane, Telezma Studios

Indie Tarot Indie Tarot artist Indie Tarot deck

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