Arcana – A Tale of Tarot

The Workshop

January 22-27, 2018


It was 1973 and my parents were James Bond fanatics. One evening they plopped me into the back seat of the family station wagon and away we went to the drive-in theater where the latest 007 film was playing…Live and Let Die. As a kid I was big into magic and all things otherworldly, thus this film was a treat to behold for a young eight year old with such inclinations. The movie had lots of goodies to keep me interested…snakes and skeletal Voodoo villains, but perhaps the most enthralling part of the film was the heroine, Solitaire (Jane Seymour), who foretold the future using a strange deck of cards called Tarot. Forty-some years later, here I am, still mesmerized by Tarot cards. I’m not certain that I believe in the soothsaying aspect of them, but as a symbolic art form they are fascinating. Each symbol, picture, and gesture is meaningful and emblematic; then placed in conjunction with other cards the story becomes even more complex.

A Tarot deck is divided into two parts: the Major and Minor Arcana. In a nutshell the Minor Arcana is about earthly situations and the Major Arcana symbolizes the otherworldly influences on the world. Personally, I find the Major Arcana to be the most fascinating of the parts, because the cards in this category are so iconically rich…such as the Lovers, The Magician, The Fool, The Devil, and of course the ever unsettling Death card. This collection of images is really a journey that starts with the Fool and moves through a variety of characters until the journey is completed 22 cards later with the World. It the journey of all of us…we all start as the Fool and, with any luck, we gain enlightenment and completion. Last summer it dawned on me that since the Major Arcana embodies such a rich cast of characters, why not literally transform them into three-dimensional beings. Instead of a deck of cards…perhaps a stage of cards where the theatrics of existence can be performed; a place where the Fool can literally travel and experience the world and beyond. Thus the Tarot Theater concept was born.

In my mind I cannot imagine a city better equipped to explore the mysteries of the Tarot than New Orleans. The city is filled with magic and mystery and literally has fortunetellers and Tarot readers on every corner. So, because of this, Tarot will be our ArtVenture theme in 2018. Your task will be to create a few puppet characters based on a few cards (Major or Minor Arcana). Using found objects as your base, you will modify them into a metaphorically rich persona. Next you will create a little stage or stand for your creations. This could be one stage to house all your creations or a smaller individual stage for each card you choose to interpret. Since it is rather unlikely you’ll be able to complete all 78 cards during class, this means you’ll have a choice to make: Which cards to personify? You could select them based on what most inspires you, or the most appealing story, or the most compelling imagery…OR you could be really daring: shuffle a tarot deck, spread them out face down and let the Fates decide your creations. Pick a card any card.

The Soothsayer’s Shindig – The Second Line Parade
One of the most exciting aspects about the New Orleans retreat is the costumed 2nd line procession. Each year we are led by the Panorama Jazz Band and wander through the French Quarter decked out in our thematically outrageous getups. This year’s participants will be adorned as Tarot characters and/or fortunetellers and will wander the nighttime streets in a bit of prognosticating pageantry.

Workshop Gallery

About the Instructor

Michael deMeng is an assemblage artist from Vancouver, Canada who exhibits throughout the United States. As an educator, he has been actively involved with VSA Montana, providing art education and encouraging participation in the arts to people with disabilities. Through these activities, as well as his artwork, deMeng fosters community awareness, and offers creative methods to explore the human experience.

In his art, he addresses issues of transformation. Discarded materials find new and unexpected uses in his work; they are reassembled and conjoined with unlikely components, a form of rebirth from the ashes into new life and new meaning.

These assemblages are metaphors for the evolutions and revolutions of existence: from life to death to rebirth, from new to old to renewed, from construction to destruction to reconstruction. These forms are examinations of the world in perpetual flux, where meaning and function are ever-changing.


Michael will provide a variety of materials included in your registration fee.

Students should provide the following supplies:

  1. A base for your stage. Could be a cigar box if you want more than one character on the stage or a small plaque for each one
  2. A variety of found objects. Items like watch parts, gears, typewriter parts….just about anything, really. Look for things that are interesting shapes or designs. Tiny doll parts.
  3. Fabric or burlap if you want to line the interior
  4. Paint Brushes (a couple small detail brushes, and some cheap brushes (1/2 inch to 1 inch in size)
  5. E 6000 Adhesive
  6. Eyes or things that might replicate eyes. Tiny doll eyes would be great.
  7. Paints: Any colors you might want just in case I don’t bring it.
  8. Optional Things to bring – Heat gun, Dremel (with cut off wheel and engraving bit, sanding drum