We were invited to be a part of the 2nd Tarot Card show curated by Aunia Kahn, “Tarot Under Oath” exhibited at Last Rites Gallery in New York. We chose the Temperance card because it was resplendent with symbolic meanings, much of which we chose to take in a more apocalyptic direction. The process for making our piece was multi-stepped involving the creation of a set and a great deal of digital painting and ‘pixel pushing.’
To begin, we hung the clouds since these were such a strong element for the scene and they literally floated overhead (and it was easier to build them with flat ground under our feet!). The clouds were layers of semi-opaue elements that would allow light to pour through them in much the same way the sun illuminates the sky. The base layer was sheets of very thin plastic strung across an 8′x8′ frame suspended over the set on C-stands. Over this, we strategically pinned the bunched layers of batting. This batting had been dusted with various tints of spray paint to mimic the texture of real clouds. More paint was dusted on as needed.
The next step was to create a faux mountain range. We are long time fans of old-school scenery techniques and our mountains are simply made by tearing long sheets of chipboard which we screwed to long lengths of 1″x3″ studio pine. We then painted them in a loose fashion to mimic the light flow we are going for in the final scene. It wasn’t necessary to fuss over details too much as these were background elements and we wanted them to feel more “dissolved” and distant.
The studio pine length was screwed to wooden “apple boxes,” which allowed for flexibility in determining the height. The lower section was left exposed because it was not in frame and was invisible to the camera view. The photo below shows that there were multiple levels of mountains to further create depth.
We built a small 8′x4′ wide pool with 2″x6″ thick pressure treated lumber, steel brackets and covered this with a pond liner.
Once built, the pond was covered in heavy sheets of black duvateen (a dense, non-reflective, fire-retardant fabric, that effectively blocks all light and sucks up light as well). The duvateen protected the pond liner from the edges of the rocks and it also sucked up all the stray light hitting the water to make it feel deeper and denser that it really was. The duvateen also provided a slip free base for the model to stand safely.
The field of rocks were 4′x4′ plastic rock sheets manufactured by ACME Scenery. They are amazingly lightweight and pile up on themselves to eliminate any visual seams.
We rented vintage theatrical wings from the San Francisco theater company A.C.T. (American Conservatory Theater). These wings were beautifully detailed, yet quite heavy, so there was no way our model would be able to wear them without a support harness. We opted to secure them to a C-stand with we disguised with pieces of the set and extra metal mesh dress fabric. It all but disappeared.
The dress was custom made by Kaytee Papusza for the shoot with a variety of metals and metal mesh.
Once on-set, our model, Kate Coneely, was directed by Jason through the specific motions we needed to capture the symbolism of the Temperance card.
For all of our pieces, we try to shoot as much “real life” as we can and this piece was no different. Our final piece has an abundance of human skulls throughout, as well as, a mysterious, free-flowing toxic substance. This was all captured practically and rather methodically.
We repeatedly poured pitchers of water over all the areas we wanted to create the feeling of rushing toxic flow.
We moved our single skull all over the set and captured each location and the specific lighting story that existed where it sat.
The Temperance Tarot often features a symbolic Iris flower on the right side of the card. It represents the goddess Iris, a messenger goddess from the underworld who transcends the individual realms. We chose to reinterpret this underworld messenger as a faceless, ever present corporate entity. We drew a visual symbol of the iris flower and created a logo for our shadow company “TRU5T.”
To further the nefarious qualities of our shadow corporation, we intentionally created a symbol that subtly had multiple meanings. At first glance, it innocently represents a bearded iris flower; but upon closer inspection, a mysterious hooded, cloaked figure emerges. A deeper look reveals a large, voracious beast hovering behind it all. To us, these later two symbols are synonymous to the behavior and greed of many major corporations.
We choose to further the mysterious Overlord TRU5T Corporation by creating a simple portal website TRU5T.info that depending on the viewers choices, either sends them to find information about the “Tarot Under Oath” show or down a curious path to reach our own website.
It goes without saying, a great deal of digital painting and “stitching” was done by us to finish the image. A breakdown of our digital process can be found here.
The final image for the project is below.