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Daniel Martin Diaz and the Lowbrow Tarot Project

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I started out researching some posters I’ve collected from shows at various Austin theaters over the past few months and then I got to riffing through Google and chanced into something interesting, the Lowbrow Tarot project, a showcase for 23 illustrators and designers. What particularly caught my eye was the card back designed by Daniel Martin Diaz. It is exactly the kind of retro graphic arts style design which I particularly like. Diaz’ other work is also worth a look. It’s morbid, weird and mystical and full of arcane symbolism. It’s fun stuff.

The Lowbrow Tarot is interesting in its own right as well. It’s a great idea to bring a bunch of very different artists together in a thematically unified showcase and the Tarot provides excellent subject matter for them to work with. The quality of the art is uneven. I really like some of the artists, particularly Aunia Kahn, Laurie Lipton, Heather Watts and Claudia Drake. Others, like Scott Brooks and Sas Christian, I find pretty unappealing. But there are enough artists involved that there’s bound to be something which will appeal to anyone, and it’s interesting to see how a group of very different artists interpret the timeless ideas of the Major Arcana.

This past weekend the illustrations from the Lowbrow Tarot iopened as an exhibit at La Luz de Jesus gallery in Los Angeles where it will run through the end of the month. After that it will be released as a book and eventually in actual card format sometime early next year. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, check out the exhibit. If not, the website is a somewhat inferior alternative, but worth some time to look over.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://www.clintcatalyst.com Clint Catalyst

    Agreed: Diaz’s contribution to the Lowbrow Tarot project is ‘fully on-point,’ if you’ll excuse the SoCal vernacular. From the murky-hued palette to his choice of esoteric symbols (ditto, numerology——there’s a pair of decimals 1 & 3 entwined in the design’s ? grande ? ornamentation,

    veritably wrapping itself up one side of the Sooth-Sayer’s medium for divination & simultaneously back down the other. So fraught with centuries of superstition and wildly disparate connotations, the number 13: one might interpret the artist’s intention as to communicate duality—or, more specifically, the meticulous balance between the “lucky” & “unlucky” that can exist harmoniously…so long as an object is in stasis.

    Curious also, Diaz’s decision to mark this card with the number 13——since in actuality, the “back-side” of the major arcana is the only card that presents a triumvirate in terms of magick & opportunity: all at once, it is the first card in as much as it is the 23rd.

    If by chance you aren’t familiar with all the controversy surrounding the number 23 (& phenomena surrounding occurrences of/with this numeral, including “thee cult ov 23″/”kvlt ov 23″/”2 divided by 3″/ad nauseum, there’s no shortage of theories & other information easily accessible via your google search bar)…

    Moreover, the third point of the triangle, one might say, is as follows: it is the 23rd card in the deck 22 times (again: “all at once”).

    Furthermore, in the reductive process of numerical divination, there are three exceptions to the process of “digit summing.”

    here are three numbers greater than 9 that numerologists often will not break down further into a single-digit number. They are called master numbers, & their values are 11, 22, & 33. They are considered higher vibrations of their digit-summed counterparts & very highly charged—each with its own specific meaning.

    :: W H E W ! ::

    I’ve exhausted myself to the point that I can’t bear the thought of proof-reading this prattle I’m about to post (assuming, of course, that the post will “go through”!)

    More important, instead, is this:
    MASSIVE CONGRATS TO AUNIA ON THE TREMENDOUS SUCCESS OF YOUR MOST RECENT CREATIVE ENDEAVOR!

    In many ways, it seems like just last week that I saw a series of tweets announcing that you had opened submissions…

    Thousands of views/reviews/edits/& further examination yet again: Your show is up; you sold your ‘own’ card before doors to the reception had even opened, & I’m so happy for you I could just… Well, spare you further torment by ending this unwieldly beast of a message (r i g h t » N O W ! « )

  • http://www.tarocchino.com/page53a.html Joe Padilla

    I’m a tarot collector and a game player and I have a few thoughts on these kinds of American tarot decks. It is unfortunate that tarot is only sold to us as a fortune telling tool. The Low Brow Tarot is one of the best examples of an artistic tarot but it must be said that American tarot art as a whole is impoverished compared to what the French and other Europeans have been doing with tarot cards. American artists do not have the same creativity with tarot because we are mostly limited to reproducing these themed clones of the Rider Waite deck. We Americans have been given no other model of tarot for our culture. In countries like France, tarot is used for a real card game similar to spades. The tarot decks created in France for games are very different from those Rider Waite type decks. To see examples, Google the names “Pino Zac” or “Florence Magnin” or the name “Tarocchi di Alan” These French tarot artists have created tarot cards for divination and also tarot cards for game playing. The lack of awareness of tarot as a card game limits the creative freedom of American tarot artists.

  • Gordon Trenchard

    These other tarot decks are hardly the mystery to Americans you think they are and in central America there is a rich tradition of card divination using decks derived from the 52 card standard deck. The emulation of rider-waite or in the case of this exhibit perhaps Crowley is more of a conscious stylistic decision to emphasize mysticism over folk art.

  • Joe Padilla

    I find that most Americans don’t even know that these other tarot decks exist. Whether they are emulating Waite or Crowley it’s still the same old tired Golden Dawn occult dogma which prevents American tarot artists from being really creative. More Americans should know the existence of another kind of tarot than occult tarot.