What if a seemingly sweet set of cards suddenly soured?!
Here is a piece I wrote about the tarot deck and the premise that it had “gone bad”! What if a seemingly sweet set of cards suddenly soured?! To help put this into context, I should probably mention that I grew up watching tons of horror movies! I still do — horror flicks, supernatural thrillers, crime shows — all the elements that twist a mind! They have definitely lent to my tendency to view “normal” people or objects thru a macabre lens! I like to concoct deliciously crazy stories about EVERYTHING! What if that cute little girl in the mall with the ringlets is really possessed by the devil?! What if that ordinary needle and thread liked to step out at night and sew people’s mouths and eyes shut?! I’m always looking for the sinister double life that an object might lead! After you read the article, “You Will Sing at Your Own Funeral”, I provide additional commentary to give you insight into why I crafted this strange piece about my seemingly innocent tarot deck!
“You Will Sing At Your Own Funeral”
By Misty Benson
What would you do if a fortuneteller told you that you would commit suicide with a garden hose, and three weeks later, you’d sing at your own funeral? What if she told you that you’d give birth to Siamese twins? That God would ask you to scratch your own eyes out, and you would eagerly comply? No one ever expects to hear such grim fortunes, and if so, they would just pass it off as a joke. They expect to hear that they will travel to Nepal and meet the loves of their lives, that they will have three healthy children, and that they will die peacefully in their sleep of old age. Sadly, not all fortunes are fortunate. The truth is this — I knew a girl that hung herself with a garden hose. She left a note for her mother to come find her in the forest. She had just recorded a music demo before her suicide, and one of the tracks was played at her funeral. I’m sure it’s safe to say that she never would have believed her life would end dangling from a perfect green garden hose. Undoubtedly, the parents of Abigail and Brittany, a famous pair of twins that share one body, never imagined that they would have a two-headed baby. I doubt the man who spoke to God while on acid never envisioned being blinded and betrayed by his own two hands. In a world full of truth that is stranger than fiction, I would have believed it.
Mine is a world of signs and shrines. A dead fish once told me that my new dentist was running a Little Shop of Horrors. I never listened. What could a dead fish possibly know that I didn’t? Had I listened to that floating corpse, I would not have paid for that routine procedure with an abyss of pain. Now, I read the signs. No matter how strange, no matter how gruesome, these hauntingly beautiful signs are to be taken seriously. To explore the signs, my journey of dark discovery begins with the creation of a new generation of tarot deck – The Morbidly Adorable Tarot. As I conjure the cards, I wonder what will happen if they divine scary but very true fortunes. At first glance, the cards are seemingly fun and rich and strange – an innocent children’s game. Perhaps they are utterly benign, but what if these cards come with a curse? A history? A growing infamy?
Their curse is that they can read the most grisly of futures. They have the ability to cripple people with the fear of what they will become. Querents are left wondering what they will do with this powerful yet paralyzing information. They unravel a terrible wonderland where ghostly tree limbs crawl down the walls tangled in a green seaweed madness of garden hose. Haunting black boxes act as shrines to commemorate the curious lives of the damned. My characters, which are one part whimsy and one part horror, parade right out of the paintings and roam the halls. Welcome to my sideshow of signs. Here you will meet the Twilight Sisters of Temperance, a pair of Siamese twins locked in an endless conversation about harmony and balance. The penetrating gaze of the Priestess of Skullcoco will mesmerize you as she fashionably tells your rotten fortune. You may even join a funeral procession as the Death card unleashes a skelly jazz funeral. Whether or not you will attend the sideshow and learn to consecrate your own little monsters is up to you. Just be warned that once you enter this candyland of curses, your outlook on life will be forever changed….
Now that you’ve read my story about the Morbidly Adorable Tarot, where do I begin breaking down this strange little ditty? How about the dead fish? It’s as good of a place to start as any! Yes, the story about the floating fish is true. I once went to a dentist about whom I had a very bad feeling. My initial visit was just a consultation before the major work was to begin. As I was sitting in the waiting room, I noticed a large aquarium. I suspect they thought it would add a feeling of tranquility to the atmosphere and calm the patients as they awaited their time slot of doom. To my chagrin, a dead angel fish was visible floating along the top. The minute I saw it, I knew it was a sign that I should never return. If they could not keep their fish alive, why should I allow them to put their hands in my mouth? I tried to be realistic and view it as a natural occurrence. Maybe the fish had just died of old age, and no one in the office had noticed it yet. Even so, I knew it was an omen. I knew it was meant for me or anyone who would recognize it. I came home from that appointment and told my significant other at the time that I thought the dead fish was a warning to stay away. He thought it sounded silly, and I felt foolish, even a little hysterical, for telling him. Against my better judgment, I went back for the dental work. Not one thing was done correctly. Before that fateful appointment, I had had a root canal done at a specialist. The tooth had been packed with gauze while waiting to be filled and capped. When I arrived at the now infamous Little Shop of Horrors for the cap, they left a pocket of gauze trapped in my gums. On top of that, the cap had a hole in it from doing such a poor job of shaping it. My tooth became infected, and it caused me more pain and trouble than the original problem. As if one root canal weren’t enough, I had to have a second to clean out the infection that was caused by the bad dentist. Then I proceeded to a new dentist for the cap to be placed the way it should have been from the beginning. If I had just listened to the screams of the dead fish, I would not have went through that particular ordeal. Since then, I do not question my feelings or impressions of a place. When you say to yourself, I think this is a sign, just trust it!
As for the glimpses into the rotten fortunes, I did in fact know a girl that committed suicide by hanging herself with a garden hose. Although I never saw the scene, it is an image that is seared into my brain. I have never looked at a functional and benign garden hose the same way. So now maybe you can sympathize with why I see the most interesting story in the most mundane object. After this event, I crafted my college art thesis around the topic of death. I wanted to remember those who had died so tragically by their own hands. It may seem macabre and maybe even inappropriate to talk so bluntly about such a violent death, but I did it as a way to help myself through a difficult time. The human brain was never meant to understand nor be able to wrap itself around something so inexplicable. I needed to come to terms with what had happened to my friend. It may be difficult for people who have never experienced such a tragic loss to understand my motivation for speaking about this “private” matter so publicly. In a way I could never have expected, my exhibit opened up a dialogue for those suffering the same grief. So many people were left wondering why? How will I get through this? Who can I talk to? No one wants to talk about death or suicide. It’s a very uncomfortable topic, maybe even a little taboo. My exhibit allowed them to find someone who would listen – a kindred soul who had shared their experiences. I had never realized how many people were saddled with this grief and the level of stigma that had been attached to it. I did not expect my artwork to spark such a conversation, but it did. I was grateful for the social dimension that grew from my work.
And now you might be asking, What does all of this have to do with the Morbidly Adorable Tarot? This is just one of the many meandering roads in my life that have led to the outlook that I bring to my art. These are some of the building blocks that shaped my worldview. Once again, thanks for supporting this project!
Have you ever ignored a feeling or shrugged off a sign? Have you ever listened and were glad you did?