Tarot Windows: A multifaceted exhibition of life’s journey

A collection of 20 quilts

A collection of 20 quilts

Laura Busheikin

Special to the Record

Art enthusiast Sussan Thomson was visiting the studio of one of her favourite Denman Island artists when she caught a glimpse through a half-opened door.

What she saw enthralled her – and set her down a path that culminates next week in a collaborative performance event that combines music, dance, acting, poetry and visual art to create an innovative and mesmerizing experience.

What Thomson saw that morning in Sudasi Gardner’s side room was arguably the crowning achievement of Gardner’s prolific artistic career thus far – her collection of 20 quilts inspired by the tarot deck. Gardner produced these large (3’ x 4’), intricately quilted and painted pieces, each representing a major arcana tarot card, over a six-year period. Because of the collection’s size (and Gardner’s wish that the quilts stay together) this collection has rarely been displayed to the public. Thomson immediately knew this was something she wanted to remedy.

By the time Thomson left Gardner’s studio, she had the embryo of an idea.

“I wanted to create a living tarot, using Sudasi’s collection to inspire other artists to create their own interpretations of the figures, symbolism, images and aesthetics of the quilts,” says Thomson.

Thomson enlisted Denman Island dancer, choreographer and artistic director Laurie Montemurro, whose production company Lulu Goes West is known for thought-provoking, high-quality, multi-genre performance pieces. Montemurro brought together a team of singers, musicians, poets and dancers, and gave each an assignment: create something inspired by one quilt/tarot card. The result is a show that is thematically integrated while also showcasing the diverse visions of each participating artist.

The show shakes up the classic audience experience. Instead of sitting passively in the dark, the audience is led by a guide from station to station in the Denman Community Hall. Each station is a “window” onto one of the quilts. Thus the show’s title: Tarot Windows.

“The tarot is a means to explain our personal journey – every journey holding its beauty and grief, light and dark, and joy and desire. We are celebrating the qualities of the journey in the performances. Audience members will have their own journey through the tarot. Each ‘window’ will offer a multifaceted jewel of light, and the show will create a forum for thought and questions about art and life,” says Montemurro.

Thomson has not only achieved her original goal – to bring Gardner’s quilts out of the side room and into the public – she has gone further, creating a celebration of the ways art inspires art across genres. The show is also a fascinating exploration of the multiple meanings and resonances of the tarot.

Tarot Windows runs two nights, Friday Aug. 8 and Saturday, Aug. 9 at the Denman Community Hall.

Guided tours commence at 7, 7:30, and 8 p.m. both nights. Admission by donation. Proceeds go to the Association of Denman Island Marine Stewards, a community organization dedicated to protecting Denman Island’s marine environment.

For more information contact Sussan Thomson at 250-897-8350.