I’ve been toying around with the idea of creating a tarot deck for a couple of years now. Initially, I was just going to purchase one for myself, but then I couldn’t find any that were Black and queer-themed. If they were Black-themed, they were either cis-centered or created by a non-Black person. So I thought of creating my own. Initially, I was going to use older artwork — a lot of my art already looks like the art for a tarot card because I’m inspired by the occult and the esoteric. But me, being the triple cardinal sign I am, nixed that idea once I decided to officially commit to this project. [Ultimately], I decided not only to create 78 new artworks for the deck, but to photograph most of the subjects for the cards myself.
What is your familiarity with tarot?
I’m always trying to master myself, so I’ve dabbled in a lot of things to figure myself out: astrology, numerology, and more recently, tarot. I am not a tarot reader myself — I wouldn’t say that’s my calling at all — but it intrigues me so much as a guide to figuring yourself out.
I feel like tarot has been embraced by the queer community, though not necessarily accepted as a “queer spiritual practice.” What are your thoughts?
I used to always equate anything remotely “spiritual” with religion, and religion never felt like a home to me as a Black queer man, so I would reject anything that felt like it. More recently, though, I’ve begun to see myself as spiritual and my art as a spiritual practice in itself.
I imagine other queer people feel just as conflicted with the idea of being queer and being spiritual or religious. But I think the beauty of where we are in society is that people can see a bunch of reflections of what spiritually could look like in their life and are realize that it’s a very personal journey. It doesn’t have to look like what it looks like for everyone else.
Do you hope your deck helps shift that narrative?
I hope this deck is a reflection of that. it was important for me to showcase as many different types of Black queer people as possible to show spiritual practices can be — and honestly is — for all of us.
In some ways, tarot allows people to feel a certain level of command over their future — it gives a peek of what’s to come, offering users the opportunity to appropriately respond and adjust. For queer people, this ability to take control of our destinies can have a transformative power. What do you think the connection is between tarot and queer destinies?
I agree. With my work, I’m always trying to visually imagine a world where Black queer people are thriving. It’s interesting that you mention “control” because I always want any figure I’m using in my art to still look like they’re in control of their situation. I want them to all have some form of glamour or grace. I think control is something we’re all striving for in our own way. As queer people, we’re constantly having things thrust upon us from outside sources, so I see tarot and other spiritual practices as a way to take back some of that control. And it can be transformative.
What was your casting process when it came to finding models that would represent these cards? Did you seek out people that spoke to specific aspects of the arcana?
I initially put up a few flyers looking for muses on Instagram and got a huge response, which I wasn’t expecting at all. There were, however, three cards where I knew who I wanted to portray them: The Lovers, The High Priestess, and The Devil.