Monument to Metamorphosis
Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden reconsidered.
By Brenda J. Brown
Niki de Saint Phalle’s Tarot Garden sits on the top and in the hollows of a small hill—in fact, the remains of an old stone quarry—just
a few miles from the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Maremma Plains of southwestern Tuscany. The garden is immediately surrounded by groves of olive
trees and farmed and pastured fields, and the sea is visible to the west from a narrow, oak-lined road into the parking lot. Whether
approached from the coast or from the hills to the northeast, part of the garden can be glimpsed from two or three miles away. A cluster
of brightly colored gargantuan faces, towers of white and pink and gold, a silvery half-moon, and forms as yet indecipherable rise,
sparkling and glinting, above the small bosk around them. Within the agrarian landscape’s placid horizontal curves and autumn’s subdued
ochres and muted greens, the forms cast a decidedly fantastical note.
What one sees from afar are mostly the tops of the tallest of the garden’s mosaic and cut-glass-covered structures. The garden has
many structures, each based on one of the 22 cards of the tarot’s major arcana. They are anywhere from 3 to 50 feet tall, and some
are 70 feet long. Most of the largest sculptures can be climbed and entered; some of their faceted reflective interiors were once
inhabited. Other sculptures are inviolable; more traditionally figurative and scaled, these sit informally within groves or centered in niches
and clearings. Some sculptures wend and wind around the landscape; some have landscape wending and winding about them. Some merge with
the earth; some inhabit larger sculptures’ interiors; some intertwine with other sculptures.
…To read the entire article, subscribe to LAM!
| Annual Meeting
Product Profiles & Directory