BY HEIDI ANDREA RESTREPO RHODES
Heidi Andrea: This long-awaited deck is finally on its way to being published and in our hands! You’ve talked elsewhere about your own journey with tarot, and what led you to create this deck, merging your art with practices of magic that have been meaningful to your life and helped you learn to trust your own intuition and wisdom.
Cristy: Yes, this project was started as a collaborative idea that was birthed on Sister Spit tour 2009, when I was mostly feeling like a spectator of my own magic; not really the creator. I was pretty insecure in life at large; whether or not I have always been steadily productive as an artist. I started my zine in 1997 and haven’t stopped since; although my art having anything to do with my higher self (let along giving a crap about my magic at all) was a slow process.
It took place during the creation of all my stories about finding that connection: Spit and Passion, Indestructible, and Bad Habits. I’ve since gotten way into sculpting my magic and using Tarot as a way to differentiate anxiety and intuition. I think with that came knowing why I want to do this—because it’s a beautiful illustrated project that I was already committed to; and because it felt like a natural next step after writing a bunch of books about sexuality and ethnicity and being pissed at the state.
Through this process I’ve learned to read Tarot and I’ve accessed my ancestral magic like never before. I think now that I feel pretty sound as a bruja; I can look back at the last couple of years and see what I want to avoid and what doesn’t really support my value system. I think capitalism and marketing can really kill my spirit—hell, the Next World Tarot Kickstarter is hard PR marketing work that may seem easy to me as a Gemini/Gemini rising—but it doesn’t feel comforting, whether or not it is necessary to fund the project. Having solid funds for publishing and the ability to take off a few months from freelancing makes the whole process realistic. Next World has snowballed into so many different things, but I think its what I want it to be now.
I’m not working with a publisher and I’m not looking for ridiculous profit or an advance; I just want to finish and share. Collaborators have ended up focusing on other projects; so I’m here by myself with this really magical monster that I’m so eager to turn into something as personal as my books about being in the closet as a pre-teen and reclaiming my body from abuse and drugs.
H: There are so few decks that aren’t based on heterosexual or white-European archetypes. There is Corina Dross’s beautiful oracle deck, Portable Fortitude, and there is the Collective Tarot—one of the most well-loved decks amongst Queers, at least on the West Coast. Yours stands out as unique in its representation of punk and creative, feminist, queer, people of color: what else do you see as distinct about this deck?
C: I really wanted to make a traditional deck. I agree that following the traditional suits has, in the past, resulted in a bunch of renditions of white-euro-centric-hetero-monarchy; but I want to hold on to the traditional suits of the early decks and re-write them. I’m aware of the historical context that I probably don’t identify with, but a lot of card decks, even before the Tarot De Marseilles, served divinatory purposes and didn’t illustrate the monarchy, let alone humans (like Chinese Playing cards and the Mamluk cards).
I’ve seen a lot of beautiful decks that have followed this same idea, like African American Tarot and the Universal Goddess deck. I just want to contribute to that path with drawings of my community; or the world I am familiar with.
I want to focus on queer lives, the spiritual complexities within queer communities of color, and nontraditional beauty. I think drawings are inherently beautiful crafts or creations; and expressing an array of bodies and minds in art isn’t really something a lot of artists want to do. I think a lot of artists are still classically trained to express anatomy and figure via the traditions in ancient Roman and Greek sculpture. I personally just want to draw what I see; and the people who I consider heroes, the people who are bringing in the next age with revolutionary wisdom. In the deck I’ve included some known people, for example, Alice Bag, the legendary Chicana punk musician and performer—she’s the king of pentacles.
H: Queer Prophecy and Futurism are, for me, pivotal to imaginations of what kind of world is possible for us, now and for many tomorrows. What is the work of queer prophecy you see happening through this deck, both in its production, and in how you imagine people can use it for their own divinatory work?
C: The deck originally started as the "End of the World as We know It" Tarot; but eventually I stuck to Next World Tarot (which author Michelle Tea came up with, who was one of the original collaborators during Sister Spit 2009). I think envisioning another world is what marginalized communities have been doing for centuries, while working towards the total destruction of systematic oppression and white-hetero-superiority (through social movements).
I want these cards to illustrate both the struggle and the triumph: as Tarot decks usually do, except with an anti-colonial, anti-racist, very-queer worldview. And then paired with my aesthetic of punk, Spumco-influenced line-work, and bright Lisa Frank colors; you get a pretty weird package. I’m not sure what my renditions of life will inspire, but I’m hoping that they will at least provide something that the user of the cards will identify with, or see themselves in.
H: How do you see this project as post apocalyptic, and how does the notion of post-apocalyptic intersect with your punk, queer, POC, and feminist politics?
C: I think, again, it’s that whole idea of moving forward and removing myself and my art from the systems of oppression that urge people to cause harm, or create competitive societies that lack compassion, or base success on financial wealth, whiteness, conventional body image, etc. This is why I chose punk, because it was envisioning another world (whether or not it has messed up pockets). Punk elevated the values that I knew as a Latina. I grew up with my Mom, Aunt, Godmother, and Grandma—they all worked several jobs, while my grandma stayed at home with my sister and me as we got older. The values I learned as far as class and feminism, long before punk, are my foundations. I think I needed to find a way to mirror my cultural and class foundations in punk and I think punk eventually removed me from a lot of my culture, but that’s what growing up is all about! I think the more I grow and I’m able to merge that power that comes from Latina Queer feminism and the power that comes from punk and anti-capitalist models of making art, the more I feel whole.
H: How do you choose your symbolism for each card? What is the process from conceptualizing a card to finishing it?
C: I definitely follow some of the traditional symbols, and to be honest at the start of this project I had become really paranoid about misrepresenting the symbols; but as time passes and I’ve discovered rad decks that redefine symbolism through the deck's intentions, I’m not scared of rewriting anything anymore. I know that the Tarot gathers its power from the creator and the user; and rewriting symbolism can be radical and important.
For example, my Page of Wands includes the traditional imagery of the wand, as well as salamanders (a creature associated with fire and transformation,) which appear on the Pamela Coleman Smith / AE Waite Deck. However, my main character is Mimi Thi Nguyen, who wrote Slander and Race Riot zines, (both zines about racism in punk) that she created at a young, angry era of her life. She’s become a total revolutionary writer and activist and educator, so the card in Next World is all about being a trailblazer who brings political context to her community, totally ready to shake shit up.
H: I've been following your work for the last 17 years or so. I remember sitting alone in the hall of my high school during lunch one day, having just discovered Bust Magazine and Bitch Magazine, so hungry for feminist work and not knowing entirely where to look for it. I remember just feeling so thrilled to see your work represent something that resonated for me.
It was so cathartic to see you representing different bodies and personalities in a way that challenged status-quo notions of art, beauty, and what kinds of bodies were worthy of being represented in illustration and art and pop-culture. How has your approach to your illustrations changed since you first started making zines roughly two decades years ago? Do you see yourself bringing in new aesthetic or political influences to your work?
C: I think that in the past, I was strictly focused on drawing my immediate community, sometimes I even found myself romanticizing it to the point of denial. My communities were sometimes very white or very straight guy dominated but I still felt like I deserved aspects of those communities, like the art or music. So idealizing "diversity" and "community" in my art was something that would definitely happen back in the day, when I first started illustrating my zines and even doing commissioned work around 2003.
Around 2005 I realized that I wanted to be autobiographical, and own the difficulties. I started working on memoirs about my past, or present circumstance (Indestructible, Bad Habits). The most obvious progress was during Bad Habits, because instead of just illustrating queer punks, I was illustrating how I felt and what I was healing from in a new way; a lot of exposed innards and mythical creatures like dragons. My commissioned work has definitely changed, I try to be more imaginative as I grow; and definitely pay more attention to the human figure. I think that it takes me the same amount of time to finish a drawing I’m not in tune with, and to finish a drawing that I’m deeply focused on. I think that refusing to do work I can’t focus on has been a really big thing in the recent years, and really owning that ability is something that’s always been hard cause I’m a gemini sun/gemini rising and I want to do EVERYTHING.
Right now, the Tarot Deck is really acting as the adult version of that idealized community. I’m not going to lie and pretend all the characters are in the same region; its going to be obvious that some of the characters are isolated and don’t have access to community with other characters. So it’s this more useful or magical or educational way of interpreting a better world.
H: With this deck, there is something multi-fold in what it challenges as a project, and because of the bodies and life-worlds you represent through your art, with the tarot as a medium for expression. For one, we could also articulate your work as a kind of magic or occult practice, as with many creative arts- in that it is a process of communication between inner and outer worlds, a process of intuition and hauntedness by ideas or imagery or stories that foretell and vision pasts and futures, that exceed the limits of western/white/hetero time and space. But also because divination and brujería remain delegitimated by white, capitalist, patriarchal, heteronormative culture.
Silvia Federici's scholarship has given us an important history of how the witch hunts were pivotal to the development and expansion of capitalism in imperial Europe. For so many of us queers struggling with economic and social disenfranchisement, our brujería isn't the alienated, new-age "woo" thing so many ascribe to it. It is a very intentional practice about ancestral memory, excavating histories that have been erased, and taking hold of the power of wisdom that gets languaged as 'expertise' (in different fields like medicine, psychiatry, etc.)
It remains dangerous to exploitative systems because in our craft, we learn to trust ourselves, to practice agency and generate new vocabularies, new political possibilities over our own bodies and futures. It is about justice and liberation and healing.
C: I definitely agree. Developing my magic, or my interest in understanding my magic, while exploring ancestral connection didn’t always feel like an option; especially when I was younger in Miami and felt the queerphobic sting of structured spirituality, particularly Catholicism in my experience. Although my Catholic family showed respect towards Santeria, and even incorporated certain spirits and blessings into their life (or spiritual etiquette), I think that anti-blackness and queerphobia in Latino communities, paired with the general, patriarchal ridicule of magic, really made seeking these connections to ancestry a long-winded journey.
I chose punk because I didn’t want racism and sexism in my life, but it took a minute to realize that punk wasn’t always going to offer an anti-oppressive space. I just needed to find that space in my own head, and learn to connect with imperfect beliefs and communities. I think learning to reclaim that imagery and justice-oriented qualities of Catholicism was this immense journey (hell, my last graphic novel Spit and Passion is all about this); but I really needed to do that in order to claim any tie with my ancestry and our magic. I’ve always (and still) identified with punk, and Miami is my home, but I think that if you mix conservative religious communities and the mostly-white anti-god rhetoric in punk with systematic magic-hate that’s rooted in racism and sexism....you’ve got a long journey ahead of you. It was a twisted journey that I had little control over (i.e. magic) and I’m definitely still on it cause I don’t always feel whole.
But I definitely feel like I’m at a different level than I was a long time ago, like now I have ownership over my magic and my family and myself, even though I still take a few minutes to differentiate between anxiety and intuition, and that is rad as hell.
H: You've spoken in different places about the ways you've changed and grown through the years- coming out in a Cuban family, struggling with identity and being una rarita in the world. But your work speaks to so many of us raritas/os, let's us breathe, converges imagery of the detritus of our struggles to be and thrive, with the grit and nascence of fervently co-creating ourselves and the world around us. In that sense, your work itself has a visionary quality and is participating in actively building future worlds.
If you could time travel through your art and speak to your younger self now, what would you want to communicate? What would you draw?
C: I would just tell her to honor her manic desire to create, and to not fear it, to not think it’s the reason for the chaos. The chaos comes from the system and from shitty family and friends and that desire will heal that trauma. I will tell her it’s worth it, and that all the breakdowns and disconnects with culture and her body will all heal through that desire and that anger. I will tell her to not focus on the end-all idealized life with a partner and children that she thought would come to fruition around age 27.
I will tell her that sex and love will be a fabulous journey that at times she's going to be too good for and that’s ok and it’s ok to cry about it. I’m 33 and still single and no kids and accepting that sucked, but living it is badass and I want her to know that. I would remind her that love and parenting can happen in different ways and after 50 and it doesn’t even matter, as long as she's creating and fighting. I think that a lot of my punk heroes back in the day would believe in me and my work and I never believed in myself: I was always anxious of the future and of the response of my message and of whether or not to trust anyone.
I would commend her for her lack of logic and focus when it comes to financial success and her ability to maintain herself though a million freelance jobs, whether it was drawings, selling bootlegged Ren and Stimpy VHS tapes on ebay or waitressing weddings and poker games. I would tell her to hold on to that model of success, because paying bills is great but the revolution will not be funded; and I would remind her that she doesn’t need to save the world everyday.
Only a few days left to support Cristy’s Next World Tarot Kickstarter by pre-ordering your deck or art prints here.
Cristy C. Road is a Cuban-American Artist and Writer. Blending her political principles, and gender and cultural identity— Road strives to testify the beauty of the imperfect. Her endeavors in illustrating and publishing began when writing a punk rock ‘zine, GREEN’ZINE, in 1997. Since then, she’s contributed countless illustrations to record album covers, book covers, political organizations, web and print publications, and more. Shes gone on to publish 3 novels: INDESTRUCTIBLE (Microcosm, 2005) an illustrated novel about high school, mental health, sexuality, and Miami; BAD HABITS (Soft Skull, 2008), an Illustrated love story about healing, drugs, gay nightlife, and her telepathic connections to the destruction of New York City; and her latest novel: SPIT AND PASSION (Feminist Press, 2013), a coming out memoir about staying in the closet, in order to cultivate her newfound punk rock identity and navigate her Catholic Cuban community. C. Road’s work has been featured in the Baby Remember My Name: New Queer Girl Writing Anthology, Live Through This Anthology, New York Magazine, The Advocate, and countless other published works. She’s toured nationally and internationally on her own, and with SISTER SPIT, a queer spoken-word road show. She is currently illustrating the NEXT WORLD TAROT Card Deck; and her pop-punk band The Homewreckers. Cristy lives and works in Brooklyn, NY with her cat Miss Chippy.
Heidi Andrea Restrepo Rhodes is a queer, mixed-race, second-generation Colombian immigrant, writer, scholar, artist, bruja, and activist. Currently the Outreach Representative for Queer and Trans* incarcerated poets for Nepantla: A Journal for Queer People of Color, she is committed to creative work as a practice of witness, social documentation, historical memory, of radical healing, of provocation to action, and as a tool for liberation. Her poetry has been seen in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Kudzu House Review, As/Us, Yellow Medicine Review, Write Bloody’s ‘We Will Be Shelter’, and others. Her chapbook, 'The Inheritance of Haunting' will be published by Raspa in 2016. She is pursuing her graduate studies in Political Theory at the CUNY Graduate Center and currently lives in Brooklyn.