Tarot Windows

From the Comox Valley Record, July 31, 2014, page 13:
Sussan Thomson, an art enthusiast, was visiting the studio of one of her favourite Denman Island artists when she caught a glimpse through a half-opened door. What she saw enthralled her – and set her down a path that culminated in a collaborative performance event that combines music, song, dance, acting, poetry and visual art to create an innovative and mesmerizing experience.

What Sussan saw that morning in Sudasi Gardner’s side room was arguably the crowning achievement of Sudasi’s prolific artistic career thus far – her collection of 20 quilts inspired by the Tarot deck. Sudasi produced these large (3′ x 4′), intricately quilted and painted pieces, each representing a major arcana Tarot card, over a six-year period. Because of the collection’s size (and Sudasi’s wish that the quilts should stay together), these quilts have rarely been displayed to the public. Sussan immediately knew this was something she wanted to remedy.

By the time Sussan left Sudasi’s studio, she had the embryo of an idea. “I wanted to create a living tarot, using Sudasi’s collection to inspire other artists to create their own interpretations of the figures, symbolism, images and aesthetics of the quilts,” says Sussan.

The show was primarily a showcase for the art of one of Denman’s most accomplished artists, but also a celebration of Denman Island’s fertile artistic community and an exploration of the multiple meanings and resonances of the Tarot. Sussan enlisted poet and performer, Jennifer Lee, and Denman Island dancer, choreographer and artistic director Laurie Montemurro, whose production company Lulu Goes West is known for thought-provoking, high-quality, multi-genre performance pieces. Together they formed a vision for the show, and Laurie brought together a team of singers, musicians, poets and dancers, and gave each an assignment: create something inspired by one quilt/Tarot card. The result was a show that is thematically integrated while also showcasing the diverse visions of each participating artist.

The quilts were brought to life by performances from Riane daSilva, Jennifer Lee, Cornelia Hoogland, Nicole Tritter, Jennifer West, Laurie Montemurro, Lucy McFaul, Molly McFaul, Roxanne Cowles-McPhail, Aja Cowles-McPhail, Bella Stanton, Elizabeth and Mica Gries, Andrew Fyson, Keiran Meagher, Lana Friesen and Manuela Dressler. Cynthia Minden contributed her visual art.

The show shakes up the classic audience experience. Instead of sitting passively in the dark, the audience is led by a guide from station to station in the Denman Community Hall. Each station is a “window” onto one of the quilts. Thus the show’s title: Tarot Windows.

“The tarot is a means to explain our personal journey – every journey holding its beauty and grief, light and dark, and joy and desire. We are celebrating the qualities of the journey in the performances. Audience members will have their own journey through the tarot. Each ‘window’ will offer a multifaceted jewel of light, and the show will create a forum for thought and questions about art and life,” says Montemurro.

Tarot Windows was performed August 5th and 6th to sold out audiences — with more than 200 audience members attending. Proceeds from the show were donated to the Denman Island Marine Stewards who protect the marine environment around Denman Island.

Some 200 people experienced the Tarot Windows show;a few of the comments in the audience comment book were:
– brilliant!
– loved the cadence of the journey- beautiful and moving
– just stunning
– fun, joyous, clever
– amazing, wonderful experience
– Sudasi’s quilts and the project inspire me so much
– beyond amazing- such talent
– fabulous collaboration
– well done performers- quilts are gorgeous
– thank you for the art, colour, light, sound movement
– Incredible beautiful and awe inspiring and intuitive drawing Thanks for
bringing love and light the reverance for the mind body and heart and connection to myself and my child
– this show needs to go on the road and be shared with others
– absolutely fabulous- everyone and everything was so beautiful- transformative
– Thank you so much for pulling all of this together and for giving Sudasi and the quilts the honour they deserve.
– A wonderful expression of our very artistic community
– I am speechless- beauty, talent, engaging, thoughtful, FuLL!!
– Sudasi- your quilts are fantastic- such fabulous work. The whole experience was powerfully nurturing.
Magic was wrought that will benefit the whole island, as well as Vancouver Islanders who will take it into our communities