Odyssey Tarot by Jean Hutter
Review by Diane Wilkes
Forgive me for clucking like a proud mother hen, but when one of my students creates something wonderful, I can't help basking in the reflected glory. And Jean Hutter has truly created something wonderful with her Odyssey Tarot, a collage deck created using Photoshop.
Hutter is a fine artist (you can see some of her work here) and worked professionally as a graphic artist, as well. Her aesthetic gifts and technical expertise produce an accomplished work, but it is her innovative take on familiar cards that makes this deck such a revitalizing breath of fresh air.
The Fool is a fine example. While we may be very familiar with the Parrish image, we might not have recognized it as evocative of the Fool archetype. The addition of the dog is a perfect complement. There is also a flexibility in collage where a painting can work perfectly in more than one context; Arnell Ando's primary figure for the Queen of Wands in the Transformational Tarot has been recontextualized as a powerful witch conjuring something supernatural in Hutter's Magician card. Klimt's Hygieia makes an appearance as a most persuasive High Priestess (and another version of Hygieia makes an appearance in Michele Jackson's Evolving Tarot as the Queen of Swords). I think the most productive way to view these cross-pollinations is not to embrace one or the other as the "correct" choice, but see them as patterns that connect and illuminate both cards.
As in the Hero's Journey and Transformational Tarot, the Odyssey Tarot Lovers presents several different expressions of romantic interaction. Hutter is clearly influenced by decks like the Hero's Journey Tarot by Arnell Ando and the Blue Rose by Paula Gibby, but unlike those artists, many of her cards exhibit multiple images (like the Voyager Tarot), as opposed to one enveloping canvas. Normally, I prefer the former, but Jean wisely limits her number of separate images so that each offers a different window, but doesn't overwhelm the reader or blur the view with excess.
Strength, for example, shows a comic superheroine tramping in a forest with her pet lion on top of an image of a woman meditating in the lotus position on the beach. The way the two terrains merge allows the reader to go to both places simultaneously, and understand the dynamic of the card.
I would love to share my thoughts on each card in general, but that would make for a rather unwieldy review, so I'll limit myself to some special favorites. Card XV (at top) speaks of the masks the Devil can wear, as well as the bondage and chains that can be all the more powerful because the escape key is so tauntingly close, yet remains elusive. The Tower of Pisa is the central image on Card XVI. I love the coloring of the Star-Moon-Sun trinity--the Star's blue-grey caste morphs into a deeper blue and then explodes into the hot red of the Sun. The color gradations stimulate the senses in accordance with one's intellectual understanding of these cards. The World dancer is a shadowy figure whose moves incorporate the trajectory of the earth, which is in the background but still takes its rightful important place in the image.
The Minor Arcana cards are rendered as beautifully and effectively as the Majors. The Aces do not portray the elements in the unadorned style of the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS), but instead move you powerfully into the midst of that element's domain--the Ace of Wands shows a woman with her violin, an expressive instrument, about to traverse a winding path to the castle on a hill. She is lit from behind in flaming orange. The Ace of Cups depicts a woman in a dance upon the waters, the Ace of Swords, one precariously balancing herself mid-air. The Ace of Pentacles' background is mountainous, and shows one person holding a blazing golden disk, and a woman surrounded by her pottery. Each of these cards conveys its element in a visceral way.
The Five of Wands shows two images--the top one depicts a joust, the bottom, knights en masse going into battle. This dual illustration expresses both the light-hearted and more serious aspects of this card. The Six of Wands continues the knight imagery, but shows them returning home in victory. The Seven continues the progression by featuring a knight drawing back his bow at an unseen target.
The Cups suit is drenchingly romantic--and I mean that in a good way. The couple on the Two of Cups reminds me of the Errol Flynn-Olivia de Haviland historicals like Captain Blood and Robin Hood--love will out, even against (or because of) a turbulent backdrop. The Four of Cups shows a woman gazing into the mirror at her own reflection, ignoring the other beautiful things in life. The nostalgia of the Six of Cups is represented in three images--a child reaching out to touch a tulip, two children riding on giraffes in the sky...and two children standing in a doorway. But are they huddled together in expectation of something positive--or negative? Not everyone's memories of childhood are pictures of whimsical delight, and that is expressed in this card, as well.
Is the Asian man in royal garb on the Nine of Cups smug and self-absorbed, or serene within himself because of his practice of lovingkindness? The artist had one vision in mind, and I, another. I consider that a strength of this deck--that there are multiple possibilities and viewpoints in the cards. The Nine of Swords shows another dichotomy--one frame is of someone holding her head in dread, the other a man about to go to sleep, gazing at his pillowcase, which depicts a toothy and fearsome maw. This is no Laura Ashley design! Yet the second image is depicted in a cartoon-ish style, which shows that sometimes we need to laugh at our more terrified imaginings.
Again, I want to talk about all the cards, but space does not permit me to do so. I will merely mention one more card, the Ten of Pentacles, which shows umber photographs that speak of an earlier time, but also family legacies and history. Recently, I did a reading for the protagonist of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet, at the apex of her crisis over losing Darcy's esteem because of the follies of her sister Lydia. The Ten of Pentacles was the probable outcome, and really emphasized the differences between the "love in a cottage" Ten of Cups and the rise in fortune of the Ten of Pentacles.
In some cases, the number of the suit emblem is not always in accord with the actual number of the card. The 10 of Swords, for example, only depicts three swords in the back of a woman on the floor. However, three swords appears to be as overwhelming as ten in this particular image, and the figure looks just as obliterated as the one that graces the RWS 10 of Swords.
The court cards are also utterly engaging. With her strength and focused intelligence, the Queen of Wands reminds me of Rachel Pollack, were she dressed in the fashion of the ancient Romans. The Page of Swords in her fashionable jester suit, is part adventurous child, part intelligent sophisticate. Once I pulled two cards for getting unstuck, and received the Fool for the short term, and the Page of Swords for the long haul. I couldn't miss the connection between the two cards and their united message to me--which made for a truly powerful and constructive reading.
Jean makes each deck by hand, laminating them and sealing them perfectly. This means that the clarity of image is preserved and yet they seem more like "real cards" than decks that are laminated and have superfluous clear plastic around the edges. The deck is slightly thicker than standard decks, but not at all unwieldy. Each card back is different--the artist has decided no two will be alike, adding to the uniqueness of the deck. The cards are flexible and shuffle easily, but I am extremely careful with this deck, because it is so very special.
The only people I would not recommend this deck for are those who dislike collage artwork. At $125 + shipping, the price is quite reasonable for a hand-made deck of this type, but it still may be out of the range of many non-collectors. At this point, there is no written material for this deck and it does not come with a bag. I consider extremely fortunate to have a copy of this deck and give it my highest recommendation. I am beyond proud to say Jean is one of my tarot students.
Click here to see more cards and add your name to the waiting list--this deck is already sold out! Fortunately, the artist says she may make more copies in a few months and will maintain a waiting list.
|Strength VIII, Justice XI||X|
|Standard (RWS) Titles of the Major Arcana||X|
|Traditional (RWS) Suits (Rods/Wands, Cups/Chalices, Swords, Pentacles/Disks/Coins)||X|
|Traditional (RWS) Golden Dawn Suit-Element Attributions||X|
|Standard dimensions (approx. 4 3/8" X 2 3/8")||X|
|Smaller than standard||X|
|Slightly Larger than standard (4 1/2" x 2 5/8")||X|
Images © 2004 Jean Hutter
Review and page © 2004 Diane Wilkes