O Fortuna


“Notions of chance and fate are the preoccupation of men engaged in rash undertakings,” wrote Cormac McCarthy in “Blood Meridian,” a violent tale of scalp hunters in the old west. Just as much as the desperados in McCarthy’s story, George Armstrong Custer had faith in fortune, and his belief in “Custer’s Luck” made him fatally reckless.

“O Fortuna,” Mark Dancey’s latest exhibition at SeeArt Gallery in Detroit, is a collection of work about fortune’s sway over human events, and human efforts to reckon with it. Fortune tellers have long relied on tarot cards when trying to divine fortune’s workings. In addition to a sequence of paintings based on a scene of divination from “Blood Meridian,” and a painting of Custer’s fall as seen by Sitting Bull, who dreamed it, the exhibition includes Dancey’s illustrations of the Major Arcana, the first 22 cards of the upcoming Estanislao de Medialao Kaos Tarot deck. Based on a set of primordial archetypes (customized here by Dancey to reflect the fact that our civilization is currently on top) Tarot cards are thought to lead readers to insights in human nature, and to reveal our roles in our own destinies. Tarot readers realize that Fortuna is Empress of the World because we work actively though not consciously to achieve the results we ascribe to her. Like Custer and McCarthy’s scalp hunters, we don’t recognize our own hand in what happens, and chalk up windfalls and accidents to the fluctuations of fortune. As Pythagoras wrote, “the evils that beset men are the results of their choices, for they seek afar the fortune of which they bear the fruits.”

The exhibit opens July 13 and runs through August 17, 2013. Check http://www.seeartdesign.com/ for more info.