Art Inspires Art Inspires Art…

After The Silence of Trees was published, it was a treat to hear from readers by email and social media. More rare, but so wonderful, was art made in response to the novel.

Elis Alves is an artist currently residing in Curitiba, Southern Brazil, who tagged me on Instagram last week with her most recent project, “Visual 56” which combines photography and arts with her love of literature. Elis creates visual art in response to some of her favorite quotes. Each week she also writes about her creative process.

You can see the art Elis Alves created for The Silence of Trees and read her explanation in the link below. (Fun fact: The previous week’s image was inspired by a quote from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. 🙂 )

I love the ways that we continue to inspire one another, building on that creative continuum as one artist influences another: in reaction to, in response to, in imitation of, in communication with, and so on…

In the Cards: The Amanda Palmer Tarot

For hundreds of years, the Tarot has been used as a system of divination, reflection, storytelling, and inspiration. There are decks inspired by gods and goddesses, decks of cats, decks inspired by fictional worlds like Harry Potter or Star Wars, fairy tale decks and complex metaphysical ones. People are drawn to certain decks because they identify with the imagery or connect with the artwork or theme.

It comes as no surprise that fans of singer Amanda Palmer decided to draw upon the iconography of Amanda’s work, both as a solo artist and member of the Dresden Dolls, to create a Tarot deck.

For those unfamiliar with her work, Amanda’s songs, while fiercely intimate, are also iconic. She sings about abuse, addiction, abortion, heartache, love, abandon, regret, and hope; and her songs give voice to the dreams and fears of fans around the world. That would be enough to endear Amanda to her fans, but she takes it further to connect with them on a personal level at shows, ninja gigs, and online. Amanda opens herself up, and people often walk away saying that the experiences were intimate, inspirational, and transformative.

That is what the Amanda Palmer Tarot is about: Intimacy. Inspiration. Transformation.


When Madeline C. Matz, told me she was going to take the collaborative deck to Kickstarter, to use the crowd funding tool for preorder and distribution of the tarot deck and to pay the 78 artists involved, it made perfect sense. Collaboration brought the deck into existence; collaboration would get it produced.

***UPDATE: The Tarot was fully funded within 24-hours of launching the Kickstarter Campaign, but you can still order a deck until September 3, 2013!***

At its heart, the Amanda Palmer Tarot is a one-of-kind creative collaboration, a tribute deck featuring the work of 78 different artists, including Molly Crabapple, Kyle Cassidy, Walter Sickert, Kristina Carroll, Zelda Devon, Katelan V. Foisy, and more. Even fans unfamiliar with Tarot as a system of divination can enjoy the beauty of the unique cards inspired by all-things-Amanda.

Tarot is like a mosaic or patchwork of our lives at any given moment. People look at the cards to gain insight, to glean something new, to be challenged, to connect with a larger picture. (Interesting that those are some of the same reasons we encounter art.)

It will be interesting to find out what Tarot readers will think of the Amanda Palmer Tarot, because of course, the cards are sexy, symbolic, and provocative.

But then again, Art should provoke, and Tarot should provoke. Any deck inspired by Amanda would have to be provocative, and I think that translates into a beautiful and powerful collection of cards.

You can read more about the kickstarter campaign and order your deck here.

There are also Facebook and tumblr pages highlighting the artwork, and a twitter account: @afptarot

Check it out and spread the word.

Aren’t you curious to find out what you’ll see in the cards?

Creative Vulnerability

I have a lot of questions.

As a child, I was one of those dreamy-eyes kids who tirelessly asked questions, then devoured books looking for answers. I loved college and grad school because they offered some answers and raised new questions, and they also provided me with a context and community to discuss and argue and dream.

Questions inspire me to write.

With The Silence of Trees, I wondered about the nature of evil. I wanted to know what made people react so differently to a horrible experience like war. There were other things too: questions about identity, roots, sacrifice, love.

There’s a word in Ukrainian, one of my favorite words: rozdoomlyna. It translates roughly to “lost in thought,” but it always feels heavier and more substantial than that, as if the thoughts themselves are concrete and engulfing like fog.

For the past week, I’ve been rozdoomlyna–mulling something over, rolling it around: the idea of creative vulnerability.

The words came out of a conversation last week at the Everleigh Club. This year I was asked to be one of the Artists in Residence at the Club. I had been one of the finalists for their Naked Girls Reading Literary Prize, and when Everleigh Club founders Franky Vivid and Michelle L’amour invited me to participate in the program, I was flattered and intrigued. We had our second meeting last week, and Franky gave a talk about the vulnerability of the artist. Ever since that lively discussion, two questions have been on my mind: What is creative vulnerability? Am I vulnerable as an artist?

My initial thought on the subject was that an artist who is vulnerable somehow gives his or her audience permission to connect. But how?

I think it’s easier to assess the vulnerability of artists who participate in the delivery of their work: the singer, actor, dancer, musician. They are present in their art, but what about the painter, whose subjects may or may not reflect a part of him or herself. What of the photographer, whose photographs may capture someone else’s vulnerability? Does that also translate into his vulnerability as an artist? What about the vulnerability of the writer?

If writing nonfiction, particularly in the first person point of view, it may be more obvious. But what about Shakespeare? Rilke? Whitman? Tolkein? How do we assess their vulnerability?

The poet seems to project an assumed vulnerability. So too the self-portrait of the painter. Is it only in the self-portrait that we can assess true creative vulnerability?

Neil Gaiman recently released a photograph taken of him with his wife, Amanda Palmer, naked in bed. (You can see the photo here.)

The photo was part of a series by Kyle Cassidy created to accompany Amanda’s song, “The Bed Song” that will only be available via her kickstarter project.

The song and the photograph seem to be wrapped up in this idea of creative vulnerability, as is Neil’s blog entry about the experience, but I wonder which one of the three is the best example?

I realize that I haven’t really come up with a definition of creative vulnerability, and I come back to questions.

Questions seem to be an important part of vulnerability.

We live in a society that does not value vulnerability. It’s often misunderstood as weakness. In school, kids were afraid to ask questions because they thought it made them look foolish somehow.  As an instructor, I knew the opposite was true. However, questions do reveal something about the person who is doing the asking. They reveal an admission to not knowing something. They reveal openness, vulnerability.

Questions are also an invitation to an exchange: of ideas, knowledge, perception, etc.

Questions reflect/suggest intimacy. You don’t usually ask questions if you don’t care about something (Apathy is the opposite of being engaged).

So I suppose that creative vulnerability is Art that invites us to connect with the piece and the artist.

An artist who is vulnerable makes us question: ourselves, our world, our fears, our relationships, our politics, our inhibitions, our assumptions. As artists , we can be creatively vulnerable by asking those questions of ourselves, attempting to answer them in our art in a way that provokes our audience to do the same.

So can I do it? Can I be more vulnerable in my work?

Can you?