Elephant Tarot by Michael Kutzer
Review by K. Frank Jensen

There is a certain sort of tarot deck which can neither be used for playing the game of tarot, nor be used for card-reading or similar enterprises. Their purpose is to allow their artists to express themselves within the tarot frame, leaning more or less on the traditional tarot structure and images. Seen with the eyes of the people/collectors who buy them, they are small and handy pieces of art, which can easily be stored away and looked at occasionally. In most cases, these decks are made in small or limited editions only.

One new deck that fits into this category is German artist Michael Kutzer’s "Elefanten Tarot," which hardly has reached the collectors’ market yet. The copy described here is a prototype, received as a gift directly from the artist.

Michael Kutzer is no novice regarding tarot art. He started his tarot art activities back in 1989 with "Michael’s Tarot" named not after himself, but after the Archangel, Michael, who was rendered as "Justice." "Michael’s Tarot" was a limited series of handprinted and handcolored etchings, very limited indeed since only 12 copies were made. Later followed "Tarot Pers" (1993), a satirical Major Arcana. As a high school art teacher, Kutzer also encouraged his students to engage in a joint tarot project, which resulted in "Tarot Neugereuther".

After having finished a series of 22 oil paintings named "Doll’s Tarot" in Germany, Kutzer left and now lives  in the United States. "Elefanten Tarot" is the first of a series of "animal tarots" created there. It is a full 78 card deck, depicting elephants on all cards in situations that relate more or less to the traditional tarot images. The general impression of the deck is that of pure lightness, lines being drawn by a soft pencil and the colors added by slight touches of color pencils. The illustrations are entertaining and competent art and very far from the many boring commercial illustrator’s products that reach the tarot market.

The entirely handmade production was taken care of by Michael Kutzer’s partner, Susan Arenz, using an jet ink printer on a very heavy water color paper. The result is remarkable. I wouldn’t have imagined it could have been done.

"Elefanten Tarot" is planned as the first in a series of "animal tarots". I have seen drafts for a "Hedgehog Tarot", a "Penguin tarot", a "Toad Tarot" and a "Giraffe Tarot". Maybe, in the end, there will be a whole Noah’s Ark full of animal tarot figures by Michael Kutzer. Quite a special collector’s theme!

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K. Frank Jensen is the founder and editor of Manteia, a now-defunct tarot magazine. For his significant contributions to the tarot community, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Tarot Society at this year's World Tarot Congress. He has one of the greatest tarot collections in the world.


Review © 2004 K. Frank Jensen
Page © 2004 Diane Wilkes