This work is part of Thelma Appel's original series of large paintings based upon the Major Arcana of the Tarot Deck, representing archetypes of human experience and characters - from a Kabbalistic perspective. Here, Appel re-imagines the "JUSTICE" card of the Tarot. When this card appears in a reading, it reassures the querant that things will resolve themselves in a fair and equitable manner; balance is restored. Whereas the traditional Tarot deck depicts Justice as a woman on a throne with a sword in one hand (sometimes raised and ready to strike) and the iconic scales on the other, Appel's JUSTICE reveals three pairs of humans in the foreground, below, and above, engaging in different kinds of duets. They are artists (dancers), and there's also a hint of racial justice, as a black and white couple interact harmoniously at the base of a large scale - the scale of justice. Two people above are walking a thin tightrope -- another, literal balancing act. The figures in Appel's JUSTICE all balance and support each other in symmetry and harmony. The entire scene is illuminated by five pointed stars; it is an inspired journey. But in the background of this stunning tableau, if you meditate closely on the painting, you will see a portrait of a powerful, other-worldly female figure, almost larger than life, with large bright eyes, wearing a turban, sharply observing everything, as if she herself were keeping all the other elements in balance, in some mystical powerful way. This powerful woman recalls the lone female figure on her throne in the classic Rider Waite Tarot deck Except notably, Appel has removed the sword from the scene; this woman does not need a sword to dispense justice; she has her eyes. Indeed - the same can be said of both the artist and the viewer: it is our great sense of vision that can help restore balance and harmony to our world. Appel also adds an hourglass to the scene, suggesting the issue of temporality -- an image that also features strongly in her painting of the JUDGMENT card, which, just as in traditional Tarot, is also closely connected with JUSTICE. The hourglass reminds us that Justice will be done, but all in good time. Even the hourglass in this painting is in perfect balance, as it is at once half empty and half full. The Tarot as a divination tool speaks of cycles, and the hourglass, like the wheel of fortune, reminds us that our fate is not static. In the context of the JUSTICE card, it speaks of equity, fairness - sometimes even a literal court victory - all in good time.
Combining her formal background in illustration, abstraction, landscape, figuration, and her interest in mysticism, spirituality and Kabbalah - Appel creates a uniquely original interpretation of the ages old Tarot deck, and is probably one of the only contemporary fine artists to undertake such an ambitious project.
Thelma Appel is an important landscape painter who has been working and teaching for more than five decades. Now nearing 80 years old, her work is being re-discovered by a new generation of collectors and curators. Most recently, she was selected from a roster of over 500 applicants for a solo exhibition called "Landscapes and Cityscapes" at the Chashama Foundation in Manhattan. Appel's work was also featured in the exhibition “Road Trip: America through the Windshield”, at the Brattleboro Museum in Vermont, an exhibition at the Bennington Museum, at the Children's Museum of the Arts in New York City, and on the A & E Television Series "The Way Home." Thelma Appel was born in Tel Aviv Israel and studied art at Central St. Martin’s School of Art & Hornsey College of Art in London before emigrating to the United States, where she settled in Vermont, teaching at Bennington College and Parsons School of Design and exhibiting in museums and galleries throughout the region. Appel became known primarily for her paint-soaked brush strokes on large canvases that sought to recreate the energy, color and immediacy of the landscapes. Like many artists of the era, she was inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, including Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Motherwell whom she met at Bennington College. However, Appel wanted to express her feelings about Nature in a less amorphous and more recognizable way. In a recent documentary interview, Appel explained why she considers herself a Romantic landscape painter: "Not recording mimetically what lay before me, but trying to express the excitement I felt in response to nature by using paint-soaked brush strokes on a large canvas wherein the over-lapping layered strokes of color were metaphors for the contiguities found in nature. My early paintings sought to recreate the energy, color and immediacy of the landscapes...to convey a more raw "painterly" feeling within the image, rather than recording a particular scene or looking on from a distance. " During her time in Vermont, Appel's work was exhibited at The Robert Hull Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont, The Berkshire Museum in North Adams, MA, the University of Pennsylvania Fine Arts Gallery and in solo shows at Bennington College. In 1974 she was awarded a YADDO Fellowship, and in 1975 she founded the Bennington College Summer Painting Workshop, where many distinguished painters of the day, both abstract and representational, were invited to conduct master classes. Among them were Neil Welliver, John Button, Alice Neel, Larry Poons, Friedel Dzubas, Stanley Boxer, Elizabeth Murray and Doug Ohlson. (One of Appel's students during that era, was the renowned gallerist Matthew Marks.) Soon afterward, Appel began showing with the Kornblee Gallery, and later at Fischbach Gallery -- at the time the gallery of record for many renowned artists including Alex Katz. Appel also taught drawing at Parsons in NYC, and painting at Southern Vermont College. This work is part of Thelma Appel's impressive Journey of the Tarot series.
Check out our other listings - and FOLLOW us on Artsy:
Signature: Signed, titled and dated on the verso of the canvas