It's been two years, and although Niki's book had a powerful affect on me when I read it. I put her in file D, and I haven't thought about her until I met Pancho from Calcata a month ago.
The tombstone Pancho was working on when we met made me think of Gaudi because of the colors and the different sized textiles... I told him so. Then he said, "If you like Gaudi then you'll like Niki de Saint Phalle, she created this garden in Tuscany and," and I couldn't hear him anymore because I was focusing on file D. .....
On April first, on opening day of this season, I drove to Tuscany.
After I parked across the street at a bed & breakfast, I walked passed these gates up a path that lead to a grass lawn with bushes surrounding it. At first glance it seemed that life ended there, but when I looked again and saw that there was an archway cut in the bushes, I proceeded. .. That archway lead into another grass lawn with bushes for walls, and another archway that I walked through that lead to a house... There were potted rose bushes planted on the path to the front door. But not in a line. It was more like two here, one there... I thought: This is something I would do, if I could. Then when I looked into the front window I thought, this isn't the Tarot Garden, that's a private garden, and this is a private home. Super. I chose not to linger after that. And in my defense I passed a small parking lot on my in. Also, Niki Phalle wasn't a plain Jane, the fact that there was no sign nailed to the gate out front translated into -- ooh mysterious -- for me.
Anybes, two kilometers away at the Tarot Garden I walked up a hill on a wider path that was enclosed by trees and bushes. Maybe the garden was set back for the effect because when the path ended I had a -- nature to Italian icey colors -- shock.
What I saw: The first thing I saw was the blue face that initially reminded me of the genie from Aladin, but after awhile it just looked like two faces and a hand, with a snake entering and exiting the blue face through holes "the snake made.".. In truth, I didn't want to look at it for very long since I found it disturbing. (This happened a lot. One moment I would see one thing, the next, I'd see something else.) (After looking into it I learned that the blue face represents The High Priestess card and the face above it stands for the Magician card.) What Niki left behind: "For me the Magician is the card of God the creator of the universe. It is he who created the marvelous joke of our paradoxical world. It is the card of active intelligence. Pure light, pure energy, mischief and creation."-Niki de Saint Phalle.
As for the Priestess: "The High Priestess of Intuitive Feminine Power. This Feminine Intuition is one of the 'Keys’ of wisdom. She represents the irrational unconscious with all it’s potential. Those who wish to explain events by reason or logic alone remain on the surface of things without the depth of instinctual vision and imagination.”
After spending some time with the Magician and the Priestess I climbed numbered steps of a path, and when the path turned left I noticed that fourteen was skipped. ... 14?
"The number fourteen signifies the unexpected and your need to adapt to ever-changing circumstance." -Chacha.com
"If your a soccer player and you have the number fourteen your AWESOME! because #14 is the best!" -WikiAnswers.com
"Number 14 is considered to be one of the unluckiest numbers. In Cantonese, 14 sounds like 'sap6 sei3', which sounds like 'sat6 sei2' meaning 'certainly die.'" -Wikipedia
"14 = deliverance in the Bible." -TutorVista.com
What I saw: The next sculpture I looked at was a faceless woman in a black and white striped dress, whose breasts seemed to be a balance scale.. Does that mean beauty decides all? .. Inside of this woman there were animal skulls and skeletons. Is that, nothing is what it seems? Or is it that the beautiful, especially the beautiful have skeletons.. I don't know, I might be spitting out cliches. But, aren't cliches said for a reason?
What Niki left behind: "Justice implies self Knowledge. One needs to acquire an ability to judge oneself, to come to terms with our dark side. With this insight one can judge other people and situations with a compassionate eye. Real justice is not blind, it brings a vision of universality."
What I saw: What caught my attention next was the Adam and Eve picnic. There was a piece of false ham on the rock they were sitting on, along with a green apple sliced in half. The half nearest Eve has a skull on it, and the half nearest Adam had a bite missing. Also, there was a snake directly behind Adam, which seemed like someone was saying, that whole thing was a set up.
What Niki left beind:
"Some tarot decks call this card the 'lovers.' Adam and Eve were the first couple and made the first choice. That is why I have chosen them to represent this card. The card implies there is a wrong and Right choice. A mistake can bring one closer to the truth of ourselves."
What I saw: Then I went inside the Sphinx-esque house. Yes, Niki lived in one of her sculptures. .. Each wall was entirely covered with
pieces of mirrors, as were the shelves, and the kitchen utilities, so when sunlight entered through two medium sized holes in the dining area, (The nipples.) the light behaved like light, touching everything it could. .. ..As for the restroom downstairs, it confirmed that indeed Niki had some sort of mania about snakes. What I know of snakes: They're predators, and according to word of mouth they shouldn't be trusted. What other reasons did she have for the snakes?
What Niki left behind: "The Empress is THE GREAT GODDESS She is Queen of the sky. Mother. WHORE. EMOTION. Sacred Magic and Civilization. The Empress which I made in the form of a Sphinx. I lived for years inside this protective Mother. She also served for headquarters for my meetings with the crew. It was here we all had coffee breaks. On all she exerted a Fatal attraction."
What I saw: The sculpture that reminded me of Gaudi's wall that seems to roll when you look at it, felt like the main place where Niki speaks. If you're
into reading biographies, you'll get that, because looking around inside that sculpture was like walking through a biography. It was so strong that I said aloud, "What are you saying?" I felt silly afterwards, but I'd rather ask than not. ....... Every angle and pillar was enveloped with memories and ideas. But let's be specific.... I saw: snakes, a falcon hovering over a divided body of water, two monsters fighting each other, a mother and a baby elephant, (the mother was wounded.) a wounded woman, a pillar covered in black and white molds of hands, a pillar of numbers, (There were clusters of numbers in various areas.) a pillar of smiling skulls, a pillar covered with names of people she knew, a pillar of hearts, a pillar with words like, "Tears," Wheel of the World," "Papa," "Serpant," and "Mondo," spelled out in what looked like fish-eye beads. I saw face molds above the pillars, they all appeared unhappy, except for one... ... The main idea I took from the Emperor was: There is an endless amount of suffering and love within a lifetime, and sometimes love can mean suffering, and perhaps death is a release from it all. ..... Do I believe that? I have sad or low moments, but I also think things like: I'll always have a friend where ever I am as long as the sun is out. And that death is a natural end, when it's a natural end.
Or, love is the madness. (?)
What Niki left behind: "The emperor is the card of masculine power, for good or for bad. The Emperor is a symbol of organization and aggression. He has brought us science and medicine but also weapons and WAR. He represents The Patriarch or male protector. He also desires to control and conquer."
In closing this very long post I've got to throw in five more cents... Niki spent the last ten years of her life working on her Tarot Garden. But I'm not sure how much these sculptures are really about tarot cards. When I noticed that every male sculpture was accompanied by deceit or aggression, that the creator of life is a jokester and the Empress is a mother and a whore, I decided to freshen up on what I knew about Niki. What I saw was that Niki could have been better off with out a father. A theory: The parent gene isn't something that everyone has. I think when some parents chose to leave it's because they know they don't have what it takes to raise a child, or maybe they just don't want to. And what we sometimes don't to see is that there is compassion connected to that selfish act, whether they realize it or not. Because those parents who stay when they know they shouldn't, those are the parents who somehow turn hot chocolate into sad memories.
Last cent: Before leaving I purchased a postcard that has the sculpture of Ricardo, the cat on it. I chose it because Ricardo isn't a part of the tarot card collection which makes me think that there are no angry or negative feelings towards Ricardo....