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  • Capturing the Magician

Capturing the Magician

I'm participating in the tarot card project with a number of other very talented artists including my mom and am finally in the home stretch of my piece. I chose the first card of the deck: The Magician and he has proven himself to be as elusive as I feared he would be. At first I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Here was the magician already fully formed... or so I thought. As it turned out, comprehending his appearance was like trying to look at the whole night sky at once. I could visualize his face, hands, and the background separately but imagining the picture as a whole was difficult. How did the pieces fit together? He wanted to be many things all at once and fought against being confined to one posture, one look, and one meaning. I decided to just tackle the things that I knew I wanted to include.  
I knew I wanted to use my grandfather as the inspiration for the face and I also knew I wanted him to be holding a crystal ball, which would act as the only source of light in the picture. So I traveled to his home in New Hampshire one afternoon to take some photos. Being the thoughtful granddaughter I am, I wanted the process to be as easy as possible for him (he is 91 after all) so I picked a comfortable chair in the dining room and asked him to sit with a flashlight while I took about 50 pictures in two minutes. 
When I got home I tried to find a picture I could use, but I realized that none of them gave me insight into the light and shadows created by the flashlight because all of the pictures were taken in full sunlight. I realized I would have to go back armed with the more militaristic attitude that I normally save for a select few Rug School students (Doris!) So back I went ready to force the old man to sit still in a dark room and do what I said! My Aunt Elizabeth and I looked around the house to find a place that was dark enough and wouldn't ya know it! The only room with no window was the bathroom. So I forced him in there, handed him a flashlight, told him to assume the position (not THAT position) and snapped another 50 or so pictures, him laughing all the way (or crying possibly. Who can tell?) But this time I knew I had it. He was both elusive and frank and I could imagine him holding a crystal ball and telling me my future: "I see... I see an old man hitting you with his cane!"
I couldn't be happier to have chosen him as my subject. As rug hookers we know how important it is to choose something you won't mind staring at for months on end and I have chosen well so far. My past few pieces have allowed me to get to know family members that I either didn't have the chance to know when they were alive, or with whom I have not spent as much time for one reason or another. I didn't want to miss my opportunity to form memories with him and get to know him better while I had the chance. Luckily for me there's an unbreakable bond that forms between two people when one shoves the other in a bathroom and photographs it. Also luckily for me my grandfather has enough magic in just one of his expressions to make my rug everything I hoped it could be, even from the seat of a toilet. And that is all I could have hoped for from my magician.
Sidenote for anyone who's interested: the story of the tarot card!

The story of the tarot cards (or at least one version of it) chronicles the travels of "the fool". The first person the fool meets in his travels is a powerful magician with an infinity sign floating above his head (who is more infinite than my 91 year old grandfather?) To the fool the magician seems to have all of the answers. When he hands the magician his pack, the magician calls on the powers by pointing to the earth and to the sky; magically the pack opens and reveals the Sword of Intellect, the Wand of Passions and Ambition, the Chalice of Love and Emotions, and the Pentacle of Work, Possessions, and Body. These are the tools and paths open to the fool throughout his travels. But which will he choose?

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