by Laura P. Valtorta
Our trip to the Tarot Garden in Capalbio, Italy, two days ago reinforced the idea that art inspires art. Looking at modern art, and the fantastic sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle, helps me to write better.
Before visiting the Tarot Garden, it’s important to read the sweet, chaotic, horrible story of Niki’s life. A recent article in The New Yorker allowed us to do that.
The giant tarot sculptures built by Niki and her friends and the people of Capalbio emphasize the sadness and the chaotic nature of life and love. “Death” is one of the most beautiful sculptures. She had abandoned her young children years earlier and spent time in an insane asylum.
The sculptures are ceramic and mirror tiles, reinforced by steel and cement. Niki lived alone inside the Empress for many years while building the 14-acre garden.
The poignancy of this garden comes from knowing about Niki’s sad, messy, creative life and seeing the joy she infused in the gigantic sculptures. On the side of the Impiccato sculpture is a love story in tiles with drawings that illustrate the first meeting, desire, love letters, breaking up, and remaining friends.
Any artist – writer, painter, sculptor, or musician – can benefit from walking through Niki’s garden. It took her seventeen years to create and shows how steadfast her passion for beauty was.