Catya Plate ~ New York

Judith Hoffberg review in Umbrella, June 2007  

Clothespin Tarot
By Catya Plate
New York: 2007. Edition of 50.

Consisting of a deck of 78 cards, an 86-page book and an original Clothespin Freak sculpture. All elements of the work are hand made and enclosed in a cloth-bound slipcase. Cloth-bound decorated with an embroidered appliqué featuring one of Plate's “clothespin freak” designs on the front and the spine of the book as well as on the spine of the card tray.

Consists of an artists’ book with text and illustrations, a deck of cards, and a Clothespin Freak sculpture embedded in a secret compartment of the slipcase. Since 2003, Plate has been working on the Clothespin Tarot, a series of watercolor and pencil drawings inspired by the 78 cards of the traditional Tarot. In the preface the artist writes, “Conventional domestic and low-tech items, clothespins in particular, play a key role in my artwork. Generally clothespins are associated with the woman’s task of doing the laundry and hanging the clothes out to dry. But the clothespins in my projects transcend that original function by relating them to the human body. By allowing them to serve more exotic, whimsical and possibly painful purposes, our contemporary existence is scrutinized; a life, overwhelmed with technology, which has lost its appreciation for the small and unassuming.”

The heroes in this Tarot are the Clothespin Freaks: capricious,
anthropomorphic figures made of clear plastic clothespins, doll’s body parts, and sewn pieces. Different in many ways from other Tarot decks. The traditional suits—swords, wands, pentacles, and cups— are replaced with hatpins, darners, buttons, and thimbles. The 56 cards of the Minor Arcana express their female power and fondness for needle work by surrounding themselves with sewing paraphernalia. Playing on the idea of the arcana (Latin for secret) Plate places an actual Clothespin Freak sculpture in a secret compartment of the slipcase. The text accompanying each of the 78 illustrations in not the usual Tarot divination terminology. Instead, we get serio-comic commentary on a bevy of topics: culture, science, literature, music, psychology.

Plate: “There are no specific instructions on how to use the deck other than shuffling it well before picking a card. After selecting a card and turning it over one consults the page in the book corresponding to the card for specific advice, taking into consideration its normal or inverted orientation. Some clothespin freaks refer the reader to an additional clothespin freak. It is not necessary to have a specific question in mind before picking a card and one may use spreads associated with other decks if preferred.

“The main purpose of the Clothespin Tarot is to enlighten and amuse the reader while emphasizing the importance of one’s imagination in a world where thinking big by looking at the fine details has become a freakish exception.”

Hanged Tarot: "By no means intentional, your unconventional personality cannot help but march to the beat of a different drummer. Strongly adhering to your very own hanging instructions you do not give a hang to what most people do or think.”

Judith Hoffberg review in Umbrella, June 2007

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So Soll Ich Meine Zahlen Schreiben: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 0

By Catya Plate
New York: Catya Plate, 1991. Edition of 50.

17 x 11"; 23 unnumbered pages with 22 black and white illustrations. Photocopied on acid free, recycled paper. Laminated covers. Velcro bound at top edges.

Catya Plate: "Constructed like an oversized arithmetic book, this book is Plate's reflections on her early education in Germany. Partly extracted from the type of exercise book from which she learned to write her numbers, the artist also muses on the personal and symbolic meanings of each numeral. From the first time that her father warned her not to 'count with your fingers, count with your head!' numbers became symbols for an abstract and technology-heavy world in which the mind and the body are increasingly at conflict.

"As an obedient and timid child I would follow directions with ambition and awe and copy the numbers as perfectly as I could. This occurred not without drawing the attention of my teachers who through that these numbers were too perfect and that I was not normal."

Stephanie Brown, Artists Newsletter, February 1995, review: “The title translates as Thus shall I write my numbers and the book uses text and images to sum up (oops!) the oppressive experience of Germanic rectitude applied to writing numerals and doing mathematical calculations. Traumatized from an early age by her father's inflexible teaching of these skills, Plate extends personal distaste for numbers into a universal condemnation of an over-abstracted, over-regimented, technology-laden world, symbolized by contorting and dismembering her body to correspond with the shape of the numerals. As a complete innumerate lacking even an O-level in maths I can sympathize. Effectively presented as an oversized arithmetic exercise book with photocopied content and laminated cover.”

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Page last update: 09.10.11


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