723 Tarot by Paul Afong, Jr.
Review by Kimberly Fordham
The 723 Tarot is a self-published, first edition Major Arcana deck, created in a limited edition of 50 hand-finished and custom-built copies, signed and numbered by the artist. I have to stop right here and say that the deck is precisely and beautifully rendered and packaged. The cards are high quality stock with a matte finish, rounded corners, and plain black linen backs. They come in a fold over cardboard cover with an attractive red print motif, and a matching band that slips over the case and on which the deck information is printed. It fits almost too perfectly; it’s a bit of a struggle to get the band back over the cover, but with a little practice this skill is easily mastered.
Paul Afong is a prolific artist and graphic designer, and many of his original pieces can be viewed (and purchased) on his website. The 723 Tarot originally came into being as a college art project, and was created “almost subconsciously”. The line work for each original painting was drawn with Afong's non-dominant hand, in a very small scale, and subsequently enlarged. The backgrounds were created by finger painting with acrylic paints. The result is a charming and intriguing blend of simple form and color combined with subtle, sophisticated touches. The Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) influence is easily recognizable, although this deck is by no stretch of the imagination a RWS “clone”. The card numbering is traditional; Strength is eight and Justice is 11. Some of the cards depict astrological symbols, which appear to have been assigned according to the artist’s personal attributions: Sagittarius is assigned to the Chariot, Aquarius to Temperance, and Cancer to the Moon. These nontraditional correlations enhance, rather than detract, from the deck. I found myself looking at the Chariot with different eyes; I normally associate the Chariot with Cancer, and making the elemental shift from Water to Fire enabled me to perceive the card from an altered point of view.
The ubiquitous white rose appears in the hand of The Fool, and The Magician’s attention is focused on his lemniscate. One of my favorite cards in this deck is The Moon, with its bright scarlet crawfish which rivals the moon itself in size, and seems to be holding a dog/wolf in each claw. The Wheel of Fortune and The World form a vivid contrast when viewed side by side. While both depict basically circular forms, the wheel in The Wheel of Fortune is asymmetrical, and haphazard images are flung from it as it spins out of control. The World card is vibrant and less chaotic; there is a sense of wholeness and completion lacking (appropriately) in The Wheel of Fortune.
The more I handle this deck, the more it appeals to me. It is refreshing and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it to collectors and, as it is a limited edition, I doubt that it will be available for long. In preparation for this review, curiosity got the better of me (something that happens more than I care to admit), and I asked the artist why he called the deck “The 723 Tarot”…well, because July 23rd is his birthday….nothing arcane or esoteric about it. In my opinion, a worthy title for a very fine deck, indeed.
NOTE: You can order the deck for $75 from the artist.
Kimberly Gibbs Fordham (also known as Kimber) has been fascinated with the tarot for the past 30 years. She has done readings and taught classes on Tarot, Wicca, and Astrology at Escape into Reality in South Windsor, CT. She also has a lifelong passion for Tudor and Stuart British history and renaissance faires (check out www.plaiddragon.com). Kimberly now resides in Dallas, TX and is currently working on her second tarot deck.
Images © 2003 Paul Afong
Review © 2003 Kimberly Fordham
Page © 2003 Diane Wilkes