Reminded at Depth that Tarot is No Thing with Which to Fuck Around

About a year ago towards the end of June 2013, I finally started to paint my Tarot deck. I knew at the time that I was undertaking the largest and most challenging body of work of my entire career, but I had no idea that by the time a year had passed I would find myself so psychically and emotionally drained.

I think of my Tarot as one work of art made up of 22 paintings, each of which is 5 feet high and 3 ½ feet wide. Aside from the basic fact that undertaking one work that is in total 73.33 feet long and 5 feet tall is a hell of a lot of hard work. In retrospect, this series was incredibly demanding in terms of finances, material, and labor. This does not include the cost of a full time studio assistant and a DUMBO studio. That’s the easy part.

When I first started the series, the card imagery veritably poured out of me in spite of working with a totally repaired rotator cuff on my left arm which I had dislocated from the shoulder. I would work on three or four at a time, take a brief break from the Cards to paint a landscape or two – memories from the south of France – and then dive back in. I hardly needed to look at the paintings; they were just right.

It is a year later. Yesterday I completed Judgment. Both The Lovers and The Wheel of Fortune are nearly complete and The World is well underway and I just started my last card, Strength.

Until recently, the paintings were still flowing; I did not need to think about them nor was I exhausted at the end of the day. These last five paintings are more demanding than the first 17. However, as with anything else I do, once I have committed I will see a project through. I will finish the entire series of 22 Major Arcana, and I have every intention of doing so by the end of the month.

This level of exhaustion reminds me of the result of having harkened to my mentor, Jan Cox, at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Jan said “You cannot think of yourself as a printmaker unless you print an entire edition in one day.” I hand-printed an entire edition of 40 stone lithographs by myself in one day. I went upstairs to the Museum School Gallery, laid my head on the soft stone floor and passed out for four hours.

For an in-depth statement about the genesis and development of the series, please see the project specific statement.

400 Other Cabbies Nicknamed Me "Madman"

Too Much Traffic on 44th Street During Theater Hour

oil painting 1985oxxxx.psd Night Driver Self-Portrait

And where may I take you? Self-portrait 1985

It’s 7:45 PM and 44th Street looks like a damn parking lot. There’s no money in sitting still, and sitting still empty is burning cash with the gas. I’m about three hours out of the garage—down two joints of Hawaiian and half a quart of tequila into my long, long night. Patience is a girl’s name, and if I could get a blond shiksa blowjob from Patience while I’m idling here, I might just idle away the time. Patience of the mental sort, however, and early evening drugs and booze don’t mix.

Fuck it! I’m driving my regular cab, my favorite of all time: a Massachusetts State Police chaser that someone neglected to turn street-legal. Five-speed overdrive transmission, racing frame and shocks, a top-end [KB1] [JH2] north of 130 mph, and acceleration that could blow you back in your seat like a dragster on nitrous. Time to send the world to my very own Hell.

I jam my left hand on the horn and spin the wheel to the right. I stomp on the accelerator and the car leaps onto the south sidewalk of 44th Street, gathering speed like the Apollo mission trying to leave Earth behind. People are terrified, diving into the air left and right to get out of the way of this obvious fucking MADMAN. I get to the end of the block, still on the sidewalk, and blast onto 8th, against the light, turning uptown in a beautiful four-wheel drift.

A siren blares behind me – sounds like it’s in the damn car, and when I look in the mirror, there’s another cab behind me. This one someone neglected to actually turn into a cab. Three very big detectives burst out of the car and approach me—really quickly and quite carelessly considering they’re in the middle of a traffic stop with a lunatic. One cop rips open my passenger door and starts searching the front seat; another does the same for the back seat. The third stomps up to where I’m sitting.

I politely roll down my window. “Yes, Officer?” I say in my best beta-dog voice. “WHAT WERE YOU FUCKING THINKING?” he screams at me. “Well, in retrospect,” I say, “it no longer seems like such a good idea.”

“Get the fuck out of the car,” says my personal detective. Which I do with that special care that drunks take to project normality. He starts to pat me down and seconds later finds the dime bag from the bodega at 14th and 3rd.

“What the fuck is this?”

“Pot, sir,” I say, as he proceeds to shove it deep back into my pocket.

“Get the fuck out of here,” he says. I stutter that I’ll just go home. “Fuck it,” he says, “go back to work, you need the money.” And they get in their unmarked and cruise into the night.

New York used to be so much fun!