The Tarot is often seen as an obscure art, but Tarot Life Cards: Using Your Birthday to Chart Your Course, by Connie Lehman and Irene Clurman, makes it more accessible. Lehman has been drawing, sculpting, embroidering and curating in Colorado for decades. In 2004 she began illustrating Tarot cards for the book, which helps readers identify their Life card and figure out what that means. "From the first time I ever saw Tarot cards, I was very interested in the visuality of it," Lehman says. Then she saw a deck by artist Rachel Pollock. "She did a deck that was very contemporary, and until very recently -- until a lot of us came along that don't follow the rules -- nobody did decks that didn't follow the originals."
After seeing the deck by Pollock -- who ended up writing the foreword for Tarot Life Cards -- Lehman sent her an e-mail, saying that it was the deck of her dreams and joking that she was going to slit her wrists now that she had seen it. Pollock responded that she was coming to Denver to meet Lehman. After visiting Lehman's studio, Pollock told her that some of the cards were already represented in her drawings. "She gave me a lot of encouragement," Lehman says, "and then I decided my Tarot deck...was going to be only the Major Arcana, and I also decided they were going to be embroideries."
The Major Arcana consists of 22 cards, which represent a journey through life from birth to enlightenment. When the deck is used in a game, these cards trump the rest of the cards. In her research, Lehman collected more than forty decks of Tarot cards.
Clurman got involved when Lehman convinced her to help with the writing. The two have been friends since 1978, and both love Tarot. When she finished all the drawings, Lehman sent them to Clurman to evaluate. "It's an amazing experience as an artist to have someone who was an art critic look at your work with a tremendous dedication and just zero in on what it really says, and what it says to her," Lehman says.
While revisiting the cards she had drawn, they discovered a lot of "magic" in them that Lehman hadn't noticed before. The gold watercolor she used in card eight, Strength, for instance, made the woman's face look like a lion, an important symbol for this card. A similar incident happened when examining card fifteen, the Devil. "When you use monotype, after you print that first print, there's enough ink left on the plate for a shadow," Lehman explains. "In the first [print] she had horns, but in the second, as I was going to do her horns, right in front of my eyes they turned to a butterfly."
Knowing her Life card and Year cards has always helped Lehman make sense of what's going on in her life. "It sort of gives a name to what you're going through," Lehman says. "When my son was 22, he had Hodgkin's [Lymphoma], which is a type of cancer. And he got well and I was still just a mess, and I looked at my Tarot Year card and I was in Hanged Year, so I was hanging upside down by one ankle. And the message of that card is surrender, and it just sort of gave me the courage to go on."
Every aspect of the book, from conceptualizing to printing, was done locally. "I really feel so strongly that it is a community project," Lehman says. "I got to watch it run through the press and be set up. And the book is absolutely beautiful." Through their website, www.tarotlifecards.com, they have been able to reach people from France to Nigeria. "Here I sit in my studio, and the world comes to you," Lehman says, amazed at the response they have gotten from the Internet.
Lehman and Clurman will sign and discuss the book, which costs $29.95, at 7:30 p.m. on October 22 at the Tattered Cover LoDo.
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