Clown Tarot by Debra Klopp-Kersey

Review by Kimberly Fordham


Debra Klopp-Kersey is a self-proclaimed working artist whose artwork I first encountered on Ebay, and then later on Etsy, where she is the proprietress of Nanny Norton Prims, “Original Folk Art from the Appalachian Mountains.”  She works in many mediums, among them painting and sculpture.  Her style is surreal and eclectic, many of them Dali-esque, and some unsettling.  It is this unsettling aspect that inspired this review.


I purchased Klopp-Kersey’s first hand made tarot deck, the Crow Tarot, and we corresponded a bit. She is talented, friendly, and obviously totally enamored with  creating’s not a hobby, it’s her life.  It was during this period that she advised me that she was working on her second deck, the Clown Tarot, and asked me if I’d be interested, and of course I was.


The Clown Tarot is a 22 card Majors only deck, completed in 2008 and self published in a limited edition of 100. Each deck is made by hand.  The cards are laminated and sturdy, with a non-reversible neutral toned clown image on the back.  The deck comes in a hand made box which is too large for the deck, but it does the job just fine. Klopp-Kersey has managed to breathe new life into the stereotypical archetypes of each card with her unusual use of clowns as the central theme; none of the cards are happy-go-lucky in the sort of clownish way one might expect.  Instead, she shows us what the clown might truly be experiencing, beneath the mask he shows the world.  The most disturbing image in the deck (in my opinion, anyway) is that of the High Priestess.  The moon’s phases appear in the lower left corner. There is a blue veil arched over the left eye, giving it an almost cave-like appearance – what does it shelter in its depths? The right eye is clear, but dark, with rays radiating downward, almost like scars.  Within the red bulb nose, a female figure arches impossibly into a flowing, circular form. Her features are indistinct. Finally, the red mouth is a grimace of jagged teeth, perhaps a warning to be prepared before entering that cave.  This card dramatically shows that things aren’t always what they seem.


Death is one of my favorite cards.  In contrast to the High Priestess card, Death has an innocence about it, lacking either the harsh edge of the unknown or the usual clownish superficiality.  A baby clown sits naked on the ground by a black flag. He wears no white face paint; only his red bulb nose gives him away. His eyes are closed, and a red circus ball rests by his side. Behind him, the sun comes up over the horizon, lighting the path of the black shrouded skeleton slowly approaching.  We are all naked before death.  Our masks are removed, and the hiding is done.


Temperance is another favorite card; quirky and childlike. A stream bisects the card, and a chalice rests on either bank. The background is golden and sunny. In the foreground, a clown doll sits in the steam, visible only from the waist up. Finding balance in life requires a certain degree of maturity; we learn to leave our childhood toys behind and trust in the flow. 


There is much more to the Clown Tarot than what is immediately apparent on the surface.


You can view Klopp-Kersey’s multitude of artwork here.  Both the Clown Tarot ($115) and the Crow Tarot ($145) are available for purchase directly from the artist.




Images © Debra Klopp-Kersey
Review © 2009 Kimberly Fordham

Page © 2009 Diane Wilkes