Thelma Appel, Justice, 2009
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Justice , 2009
From the series Journey of the Tarot
Oil on Canvas painting. Hand signed, dated and titled on the verso
50 × 40 inches
This work is part of Thelma Appel's original series of large paintings based upon the Major Arcana of the Tarot Deck, representing archetypes of human experience as they travel through life. Here, Appel re-imagines the "JUSTICE" card of the Tarot. When this card appears in a reading, it reassures the querant that things will resolve themselves in a fair and equitable manner; balance is restored. If one is involved in any kind of legal dispute, the Justice card suggests a victory; justice will be served. Whereas the traditional Tarot deck depicts Justice as a woman on a throne with a sword in one hand (sometimes raised and ready to strike) and the iconic scales on the other, Appel's JUSTICE reveals three pairs of humans in the foreground, below, and above, engaging in different kinds of duets. They are artists (dancers), and there's also a depiction of racial justice, as a black and white couple interact harmoniously at the base of a large scale - the scale of justice. Two people above are walking a thin tightrope -- another, literal balancing act. The mixed race dancers at the center are balanced on the hilt of the Sword of Justice — which is positioned between the Scales Of Justice. The figures in Appel's JUSTICE all balance and support each other in symmetry and harmony. The entire scene is illuminated by five pointed stars; it is an inspired journey. But in the background of this stunning tableau, if you meditate closely on the painting, you will see a portrait of a powerful, other-worldly female figure, almost larger than life, with large bright eyes, wearing a turban, sharply observing everything, as if she herself were keeping all the other elements in balance, in some mystical powerful way. This powerful woman recalls the lone female figure on her throne in the classic Rider Waite Tarot deck Except notably, Appel has removed the sword from the scene; this woman does not need a sword to dispense justice; she has her eyes. Indeed - the same can be said of both the artist and the viewer: it is our great sense of vision that can help restore balance and harmony to our world. Appel also adds an hourglass to the scene, suggesting the issue of temporality -- an image that also features strongly in her painting of the JUDGMENT card, which, just as in traditional Tarot, is also closely connected with JUSTICE. The hourglass reminds us that Justice will eventually be done, but all in good time, recalling the famous Martin Luther King quote "The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards Justice." Even the hourglass in this painting is in perfect balance, as it is at once half empty and half full. The Tarot as a divination tool speaks of cycles, and the hourglass, like the wheel of fortune, reminds us that our fate is not static. In the context of the JUSTICE card, it speaks of equity, fairness - sometimes even a literal court victory - all in good time.
Combining her formal background in illustration, abstraction, landscape, figuration, and her interest in mysticism, spirituality and Kabbalah - Appel creates a uniquely original interpretation of the ages old Tarot deck.
Thelma Appel is a representational and abstract painter who has been working and teaching for more than six decades. In 2019, she was the subject of a 50 year career survey at the Brattleboro Museum in Vermont entitled Thelma Appel: Observed/Abstract. She was raised in Darjeeling, India and educated in London, England, at St. Martin's School of Art (now Central St. Martins) and Hornsey College of Art before emigrating to the United States in the 1960s. Now in her 80s, her work is being re-discovered by a new generation of collectors and curators. In 2020, art historian David Cohen publisher and editor of Artcritical.com selected Ms. Appel's painting for the exhibition "Pets of the Pandemic", awarding her a special commendation with the comment, "masterful double portrait". Most recently, she was awarded "Most Expressive" for her work in the invitational exhibition "The Art of Experience". Another painting of Appel's, "Exodus by Moonlight" about refugees was included in an exhibition at the Brattleboro Museum in Vermont. Her work has been exhibited in numerous venues, including the Bennington Museum, the Berkshire Museum in North Adams, Mass., the Children's Museum of the Arts in New York City, the Mattatuck Museum, the Brattleboro Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Robert Hull Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont, the University of Pennsylvania Fine Arts Gallery - and seen on the A & E Television Series "The Way Home." In the 1980s, she was represented by the renowned Jill Kornblee Gallery on West 57th Street, and later Fischbach Gallery - (at the time the gallery of record for Alex Katz, Lois Dodd and other representational artists), and Appel's works were acquired by many private and public collections. She is also a longtime art teacher, having taught drawing at Parsons School of Design, painting at Southern Vermont College and at the University of Connecticut. In 1974 she was awarded a YADDO Fellowship, and in 1975, Thelma Appel, along with the painter Carol Haerer, co-founded the Bennington College Summer Painting Workshop, where many distinguished painters of the day, both abstract and representational, conducted master classes. Among them were Neil Welliver, John Button, Alice Neel, Larry Poons, Friedel Dzubas, Stanley Boxer, Elizabeth Murray and Doug Ohlson – a program that continued until 1980. In 2014 Appel was awarded a solo show by the Chashama Foundation: Thelma Appel: Landscapes and Cityscapes. In 2019, the curators of the Art New York fair at Pier 94 chose works from her Times Square series of paintings for their public project exhibition space sponsored by Absolut vodka, and in the Fall of 2019 the curator of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in collaboration with Chashama Foundation selected Appel's. Times Square series to be exhibited in a solo show at their Project Find space – a public exhibition at the Port Authority Bus Terminal. From October 2019 to February 2020, the Brattleboro Museum in Vermont is hosting a career survey of Appel’s work entitled Thelma Appel: Abstract/Observed curated by Mara Williams. Appel became known primarily for her paint-soaked brush strokes on large canvases that sought to recreate the energy, color and immediacy of the landscapes. In a recent documentary interview, the artist explained why she considers herself a Romantic landscape painter: "Not recording mimetically what lay before me, but trying to express the excitement I felt in response to nature by using paint-soaked brush strokes on a large canvas wherein the overlapping layered strokes of color were metaphors for the contiguities found in nature. My early paintings sought to recreate the energy, color and immediacy of the landscapes...to convey a more raw "painterly" feeling within the image, rather than recording a particular scene or looking on from a distance. "
This work is held in the artist's original simple white wood frame to secure it, but can either kept as is and re-painted, or re-framed with a plan wood frame, a gilt wood frame - or an elegant aluminum frame.