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Playing cards carry symbolism

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Multimedia artist Denise Weaver Ross is exhibiting part of a series of Tarot-inspired illustrations and giclee prints titled “My Heart is in the Trees” at the Tortuga Gallery.

“Ten Trees” by Denise Weaver Ross symbolizes the artist’s marriage and family within a beautifully rendered architectonic composition.

“Ten Trees” by Denise Weaver Ross symbolizes the artist’s marriage and family within a beautifully rendered architectonic composition.

Her beautifully executed work is filled with complex symbols ranging from the esoteric realm of the occult in ancient Egypt to the more quotidian, albeit emotionally profound, aspects of life, like the passing of her husband and the illness of her oldest son, who is a diabetic.

Weaver Ross studied visual art, printmaking and draftsmanship at the University of Massachusetts, where she earned a master’s of fine arts degree. Her knowledge of global cultural symbolism and her drawing ability allow her to combine ordinary art historical movements like Cubism, Surrealism and Constructivism with a broad spectrum of emblematic forms.

The results of this recombinant artistic DNA process are stunning portrayals of ordinary playing card suits rendered in luscious tropical colors overlaid with mythological references from a breathtaking number of cultural sources.

Weaver Ross is a poet who paints and has published a nicely illustrated book of poetry titled “Midwest by Northwest by Southwest” that, like her playing card series, metaphorically chronicles her journey through life.

During a short interview Weaver Ross mentioned that her deck of cards will have four jokers giving the completed deck a final count of 56 images. An ordinary poker deck has two jokers for a 54-card total. A Tarot deck has four 14 card suits and 22 arcane cards. Either deck can be used in divination by any skilled card reader.

Though it is not her prime motive, Weaver Ross’ deck also could be used in fortune telling as well as serving as a jaw-dropping autobiography in print or as an e-book.

My favorites among the 28 thus-far-completed images come from the “Tree Suit,” a lovely collection of celebratory icons beginning with the “King of Oaks,” who resembles a combination of a Norse god and the Green Man of Briton. The deer antlered figure is depicted with a raven that was Odin’s familiar sky spirit flying reconnaissance over the field of battle. The King holds a sword in either hand, which in Tibetan iconography symbolizes wisdom.

The oak leaves hark back to shamanic lore symbolizing tree wisdom as well as being emblematic of physical and spiritual strength. Oak iconography also can be found in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco.

“King of Oaks” by Denise Weaver Ross harks back to the shamanic lore of Norse gods and the Green Man of Briton.

“King of Oaks” by Denise Weaver Ross harks back to the shamanic lore of Norse gods and the Green Man of Briton.

The “Eight Trees” is a joyful composition by Weaver Ross that is brimming with colorful birds, exotic leaf forms and drop-dead gorgeous color. It’s one of her spare compositions.

In vivid contrast is “Three Strange Fruit Poplar Trees,” a densely complex image based on the American flag. Among the trees, birds and blossoms are eight human figures including a pieta symbolizing the civil rights struggles that have occupied America’s soul for the past two centuries.

On a lighter note “Nine Trees” is a heart-lifting design by Weaver Ross filled with water fowl and interlaced trees overlooking a flowing river within a mountainous background.

In “Ten Trees” Weaver Ross depicts her marriage within an architectonic composition replete with strong verticals and two children playing among the foliage.

During our brief chat Weaver Ross said the current series is part of her healing process, which includes the loss of her husband due to complications brought on by sickle-cell anemia as well as the staggeringly slow economy, which makes it difficult to support her children.

Though she may have personal reasons for doing these awe-inspiring water soluble oil pastel paintings Weaver Ross is gifting us all with her heartfelt insights into the truly beautiful aspects of life. Don’t miss the show. I plan to buy the book when it’s in print and give it a center spot on my shelf.

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