After 14 months of diligent work, Rochester-based artist Jay Lincoln's RochesTarot deck is finally complete. The much anticipated project will be celebrated this weekend with a deck release party and art show at Lux Lounge (666 South Avenue).
Lincoln is known for his colorful caricatures of celebrities, which can be found in bars and cafes around town. Years back, he was planning a children's book of tarot as a possible master's thesis. As chance would have it, a woman contacted him around the same time and wanted him to make a book of tarot images. Lincoln hoped to draw his friends, but she wanted all of the images to be of her, so the book never happened, and the idea was set aside.
About a year ago, on winter break from lecturing at RIT, Lincoln revisited the idea and drew his first card for RochesTarot. The response from friends on social media was overwhelmingly positive. "It kind of blew up right off the bat," Lincoln says, "so I realized I'd gotten myself into something."
Lincoln says he was influenced by a borrowed library book by Angeles Arrien, who had written about tarot with regards to healing, self-therapy, and introspection. "I like that aspect of it," Lincoln says.
But this wasn't always the case. Researcher and author Wendy Painting has been doing tarot readings for more than 20 years, and had, until recently, offered readings in the back of Lux. Lincoln approached her as a tarot skeptic on one of these nights, but his skepticism quickly shifted to fascination.
"As an artist, he was intrigued by the artwork on the cards," Painting says. The two became friends, and Lincoln periodically invited Painting to guest lecture for his classes at RIT. "Their assignment was to make a tarot card, and I would come in and explain to them the elements and the symbolism that make it that specific card."
Painting served as a consultant during the making of RochesTarot. She recommended, for instance, that the Kodak tower should be featured on The Tower card -- a bittersweet image, as the standard element of The Tower is that it's being struck by lightning and falling down. Appropriately, the card symbolizes upheaval, among other things. But tarot is also about how individuals deal with their circumstances.
Though tarot art varies widely, there are major themes and symbols that remain consistent, Painting says. Every deck has 22 cards in the Major Arcana group (cards like The Star, The Tower, Temperance, or The Magician), and the rest, the Minor Arcana cards, are categorized into one of four suits (disks, wands, cups, and swords) that correspond to the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water, respectively). The astrological signs of the people who appear on the cards correspond to those elements. For example, a person who is an Aries is a fire sign and appears on a wands card; Aquarians are air signs and appear on swords cards.
The imagery and people featured are mainly centered in and around Lux, which is Lincoln's favorite bar, but the deck also features scenery from Bug Jar, Skylark, Java's, The Memorial Art Gallery, Eastman Museum, RMSC, and the abandoned subway.
Lincoln drew 108 people on 78 cards, each relating to the card they represent through body language or activity. The deck also represents all four seasons of our lovely city, evident when the people are pictured outside or conveyed through their clothing. The original illustrations for the cards are rich, highly detailed, colored pencil drawings. Lincoln has cleverly hidden the numeric, astrological, elemental, and planetary symbols associated with each card in the stunning compositions.
Three cards immortalize beloved Rochesterians who have died: Chopstix Waits is The Star, Jason Crane is The Eight of Swords/Interference, and Andy Hammond is The Knight of Wands. As a whole, the deck serves as a sort of snapshot of a slice of Rochester's nightlife scene in a particular moment in time.
Lincoln included himself in the deck, as the tiny artist figure balancing atop Aleistair Crowley's head on the Seven of Swords card -- Futility. Many artists will relate to this wry joke. And appropriately, Rochester itself is the star of The World, with the city skyline balanced on the back of a turtle, surrounded by lilacs and outer space.
Jay Lincoln's RochesTarot Deck art release party will take place Saturday, February 20, 5 p.m. at Lux (666 South Avenue). In addition to large reproductions of the drawings filling the bar, Lincoln will be on hand selling RochesTarot decks for $40 ($45 on website), prints for $15 ($20 on website), and lighters for $5. There will be free food and drink specials, and Wendy Painting will offer tarot readings for $10-$20. To view the deck and learn more about Jay Lincoln, visit jaylincoln.com.