Mario was a very talented and highly creative artist. Out of all of the visual art he created in his lifetime, none was such an undertaking and reached as many people as his tarot deck.
It started like many of his personal illustration projects, as a stand alone “character” that came straight from his imagination (actually, he claimed he saw the character in a dream). But he quickly realized that the character was his version of The Fool from the tarot.
He soon set out to create the other 77 cards. It took him a year to finish the project.
When he finished, I spearheaded a Kickstarter project to fund the printing and got a printer lined up. The Kickstarter was a success. The first printing of the deck shipped out to folks all over the world. It’s a quirky deck and there really is nothing like it out there, but one of the key things about it is that he took special care to include a lot of the symbolism into each card … except for the fool.
He started with The Fool because that was his card. He identified with The Fool the most. In a traditional deck, the artwork on the card depicts a young man standing on a cliff who looks to be setting off on an adventure without a care in the world, never mind that the first step is off a cliff and into the unknown – the proverbial leap of faith.
The card has the number zero within the deck symbolizing infinite possibilities. Upright, the card symbolizes new beginnings, innocence and potential. Reversed, it can literally represent acting like a fool, disregarding the repercussions of his actions, living in the moment and not realizing how current actions may affect the future. Unfortunately, the upside down Fool was who Mario really morphed into.
He oddly chose to depict none of that symbolism in his fool. Thinking about it now, it had to be purposeful.
When that Kickstarter project actually funded, I remember he was happy, but also a bit shocked. When he was young, he was used to people not acknowledging his talents (for example, teachers saying, “You couldn’t have possibly done that on your own. Your parents had to have helped.”), so that was interwoven into both his subconscious and conscious mind and 100% prevented him from having the confidence and drive to go with the talent. A little part of him always thought anything he created sucked and that no one would like it or care.
I think about the infinite possibilities that could have been a lot. Now, the day before the 3rd anniversary of his grand exit, I just wish he fully realized how talented he was and how people are still buying that deck as well as listening to the music he made during his lifetime.