Heather Kanzaki has been called “Living Art.” At least, that was the title of the spread in Downtown that covered her June exhibition, and if that’s not what they meant, then I’ll make it official now: Heather Kanzaki is living art.
Heather’s not posing there. That’s how she usually looks: active and engaged. She laughs a lot, partly because it’s her nature and also because her many friends and admirers enjoy making her happy.
These same people make appearances in Heather’s artwork. Her most recent showing – titled: “Rozz-Tox Tarot” – closed on June 29. Appropriately, the exhibition was on display at the titular Rozz-Tox where Heather spends several hours per week brewing espresso and serving menu items (like the Kanzaki Bowl) to smiling patrons. Many of these patrons become friends. I don’t know if I’d call Heather a “people person” (a term that I tend to associate with human doormats), but the celebration of humanity is evident in her work.
Inspired by the art of Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith, Heather bases each painting on a card from the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck. This is the most recognizable and well-known of all tarot decks in the English-speaking world. Thus, the symbolism of each card is readily available, leaving us free to wildly speculate about the meaning of each piece.
Her long-time friend and boss, for example, is The Magician. It’s a card that represents duality and the bridge between the spiritual world and the empirical world. Thus, the right hand points to the heavens while the left hand points at solid ground. The Magician’s card contains many symbols representing both innocence and worldliness, purity and knowledge. It’s the perfect archetype for a hippie capitalist.
Heather has made the card her own by incorporating multiple references to Rozz-Tox itself, where she spends several hours per week. Her magician’s left hand points not at the world but rests on his own chest. Meanwhile, his right hand indicates the Rozz-Tox logo instead of the cosmos.
One could interpret this to mean that the café is a type of heaven, somehow tied to the spiritual world.
The logo also sits on the Magician’s table, where he keeps his four primordial elements: earth, fire, water, air. Perhaps the logo stands in place of “earth” or “air.” And let’s assume the coffee maker represents “water.”
I may be reading too much into it. Symbolism, however, is a crucial feature of a tarot card. Wheel of Fortune, for example, is one of the most symbolic cards in the deck.
Wisdom and the Underworld are heavy themes, and the symbols correspond to multiple religions, including Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Heather’s Wheel of Fortune places the late Duke, a golden retriever and longtime Rozz-Tox resident, in place of the bull, which is itself a symbol of strength and determination – fitting for a pup who survived homelessness to become a world traveler.
Thus far, Heather has completed a total of 13 paintings, including the Seven of Cups, The Lovers, the King of Wands, and the Two of Pentacles. Each contains a representation of at least one person she knows personally, and sometimes two or three. She has plans to complete the entire 77-card deck, a project that should take a little under six years total. She’s going to run out of cards before she runs out of friends.
But that’s okay. When the cards are gone, she’ll find a new thing because Heather’s living art, remember?
One of her outlets is the artist’s collective The Adventure Orange, of which she is a founding member. You may remember the shop they had in the Village of East Davenport, which attracted droves of delighted and complimentary visitors. As many DIY cooperatives do, however, they focused more about helping people express themselves and were soon unable to afford the exorbitant rent. (On a related note: there are some scumbag property owners in the Village. Someone do an exposé!)
And as many DIY cooperatives do, they continue to function even without a designated storefront, popping up at local live events to provide homemade piñatas and handcrafted accessories made from recycled materials. They are the masters of the up-cycle.
So whatever you’re into, keep one eye on the local arts community. You’re sure to see more noteworthy works from Heather Kanzaki, one of the QC’s pioneering contemporary female artists. Thanks, Heather!