A traveling exhibit at the T.W. Wood Gallery in Montpelier, Vermont gave 23 individual artists the opportunity to express and interpret the Major Arcana of the tarot through an unusual medium: rug hooking. Sponsored by the T.W. Wood Gallery; Green Mountain Hooked Rugs School and business; and the original exhibition organizers Michele Micarelli of New Haven, CT, and Loretta Scena of Deer Park, NY, twenty-three hooked rugs—one for each of the 22 images of the tarot’s Major Arcana plus one representing an envisioned card back for the “deck”—were created by as many hug hooking artists.
Like looking through a new tarot deck, or seeing for the first time a collaborative artists’ tarot project, it was a treat to see how different artists rendered their interpretation of each card’s theme. One could tell that each artist had done their own independent research, and it was interesting to see how each had interpreted his or her respective card. Besides varying expertise in color blending and technique, it was interesting to see each card’s theme restricted within the possibilities of the medium. In this sense, it was a little like going to a quilt show—the medium and form was all basically the same…but with unlimited variations in color and pattern.
Several of the rugs in the exhibition involved portraiture, with many of the models being family members of the artists. Several pieces included beadwork in addition to rug hooking techniques. Most of the rug artists dyed their own wool using natural dyes to use in their work.
It was my first visit to the T.W. Wood Gallery. The building in which it is housed appeared to be in an old convent, which had been turned into a schoolhouse, which in turn had been converted into a multi-organizational coöperative space. Immediately in the buildings side-street entrance, I noticed a meditation center. The T.W. Wood Gallery was located up one floor with several galleries situated in what appeared to be some of the old classrooms. The main exhibit—Exploring the Tarot—was actually in the hallway in between rooms where other collections were hung. The gallery’s executive director was extremely kind to spend some time with me discussing the exhibit as well as some of the gallery’s permanent collection offerings. One entire room was devoted to the gallery’s permanent loan collection of PWA art from the F.D.R.-era federal program, and another room contained the works of Thomas Waterman Wood (1823-1903), some of which dated to during or just previous to the American Civil War.
The only thing that would have topped the experience would have been an exhibition catalogue raisonné for purchase so that visitors could have taken home more information about the artists. There was a print-out information booklet available to use at the exhibit, but I would have liked to have taken some of that information along with me. Despite the theory that catalogues and postcards and other such merchandise can provide a source of income for a gallery or museum, one understands that there are restrictions with such a small operation having a limited budget, as well as with copyright issues for so many participating artists, and one must look at the exhibit as something that one experiences and remembers as a flash of insight and inspiration in specific time period… (not unlike a tarot reading in that respect, I suppose…)
The gallery was generous in allowing me to photograph some of the works…Unfortunately, since I didn’t have the resources to be able to take more notes during my visit, they are offered below without attribution, save that each is an artistic contributions to the collaborative exhibit as a whole. Click on any image to see full view… (Note that some images may be NSFW.)