A Day in the Life of an Artist: Daniella Valz Gen whose practice uses tarot cards


Continuing our series looking at the day-to-day working practices of disabled artists, Daniella Valz Gen lets us in on a typical day for them, which includes rituals informed by tarot cards.

This morning, like every morning, my body is slow. I wake up too early, way before my sun lamp fakes sunrise inside my darkened bedroom. It’s 6:12 am. I hug the pillow and turn around until my body settles into a deep morning sleep, which always gives me vivid dreams. I try to record them by repeating them to myself.

By 9 am I stir enough to get out of bed. I check my phone, scroll, reply to messages, and eventually roll out to go make celery juice and do some yoga. Saying “I roll” makes it sound easy, like I follow the flow of the day, but that’s not the way it goes. My body resists getting out of bed with every cell, and even once I manage to do it I’m constantly tempted to get back in.

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day. And the most effective motivation I have found to start the day. It’s the time when I’m most hungry. I can’t have breakfast too early though, and I need to have coffee only after eating it. Making breakfast is a type of grounding ritual for me. Today I boiled an egg and mashed an avocado, made toast, chopped an orange to have with yoghurt and granola. Then made a drip coffee slowly pouring over the grain.

I sit on the sofa to sip on my coffee and shuffle cards for the day. Shuffling itself takes a long time for me. It’s a soothing action. I focus on the movement of my hands, the sound of the cards, their weight and texture.

3 cards on a cushion. The card to the left has a torso with pink flowers bursting from it and says lust on the bottom. The card in the middle has two conjoined hands, one going up and the other one down, on either side of where the wrists touch yellow flowers sprout out, it says opposition. The third card has two lung black lungs with leaves and red berries sprouting up and down, it says toxic.

lust | opposition | toxic. Oracle of Oddities by Black and the Moon

Opposing desires bloat and ache.

 I’ll be chewing on that quick reading today. Let it simmer on the back of my head and revisit it in the evening.

Today I’ve got homework to do. I was very fortunate to be granted the Artquest WFH residency to convene a group of people to look at symbols and poetry through the use of the tarot for my project Warping Symbols Finding Meanings. Our last session is this afternoon and I’ve been meditating for days on the cards that came up as a prompt for a ritual or performance last week.

It takes time to actively look beyond what I initially see in the cards, and to figure out how to embody what I see. I’ve discovered that one of the funniest things to do, and simplest, is to be quite literal about it. This has also felt powerful and playful.

These are the cards:

3 cards on a stripey cloth. The first card has three creatures standing, one of them has their back turned and is coming up from an enclosure that can be a grave. Above them the figure of an angel plays a horn through the clouds. The middle card has a figure with a beard holding up an oil lamp and aiding themselves with a long walking staff. The third card has a spinning wheel. On top of it sits a small person with a crown and sword. On the right a donkey rises with the wheel, on the left a person wearing a skirt falls.

Judgement | The Hermit | The Wheel of Fortune. Noblet Flornoy Tarot de Marseille

a light skinned hand holds a wooden flute in front of the camera. Behind it gravestones on dry grass.For my response I walk to the local graveyard just ten minutes up the road, find a quiet spot and sit on the grass. I then turn the torchlight of my phone on and face it towards the ground and say:

The wheel has turned, I shine my light on what remains so I can rise from what is dead.

And play the flute as an offering.

I frequently come to this graveyard to do simple releasing rituals. Sometimes I write down a feeling or memory I want to let go off and burn it here. Today is the first time that I do a ritual to rescue and reconfigure something worthwhile from what remains. That intention feels powerful and affirming.

Before heading back home I walk to my local park and visit the little river, the Quaggy. My relationship with this river has been an ongoing source of support. So I sit in a quiet spot and light an incense stick as I listen to the murmuring.

Back home I quickly eat a snack and join a poetry zoom group led by the American poet Ariana Reines. This is its third iteration since lockdown started and I’ve been able to join sporadically. Reading poetry out loud, then writing quietly together and sharing our work has been very important to me. And I’m glad that today I had the capacity to be part of it. Most times I write very little, but I then feel rattled inside and I’m able to write more. Today I just wrote a few words. This week has pushed me towards silence and I’m trying to embrace it.

A lit incense stick smoking standing on soil with plants surrounding it and a still small river behind it. Dappled sunshine.At 4:30 pm I look over my notes for the session of Warping Symbols Finding Meanings and prepare to start. I try to settle my breath and relax. Even though I do performance and teach I always feel anxious when I do public speaking. Thankfully the group is kind and gentle, a collection of poetic sensibilities and soft hearts. The session leaves me reeling as it’s full of generosity, openness, the sharing of complex and raw feelings, and wonderful poetry. My brain is rattling from all the new ideas and perspectives.

By 7 pm I’m very tired. It hasn’t been a very long day but it sure feels like it. These weeks have taken a toll on my mood and fatigue has become denser. I make roasted sweet potato, spinach and halloumi for dinner. Then read a bit of Cygnet by Season Butler, reconnect with sweethearts on the phone and go to bed at 10 pm with a cup of tea and a few drops of CBD oil. Before I turn the light off I look at the cards that I pulled over morning coffee and repeat my reading Opposing desires bloat and ache. I want to dream about how to dissolve opposition in myself. I hope I find a clue.