A blindfolded burlesque performer strikes a pose before the Golden Gate bridge. A San Jose knife thrower is pinned to a target by one of his own swords. A proud Aztec woman sits astride a cheetah, headdress on, incense in hand. They’re all real people from around the Bay Area—and now they’re all cards in Melina Alexa Ramirez’s new tarot deck.
Ramirez has spent the last 14 months painstakingly designing and drawing the 78 cards, before passing them to her creative partner, Eric Ipsen, for inking. As the resident artist for, and occasional performer with, San Jose’s monthly Circus of Sin burlesque and variety show, Ramirez wanted the deck to honor the artists who lost their stages during the pandemic. Specifically, those who “are proud of their queerness, unapologetically nerdy [or] give a middle finger to oppressive morality and norms.”
The resulting illustrations are a vibrant presentation of burlesque and drag performers, musicians, dancers, DJs and other creatives from around the Bay Area. One of Ramirez’s favorites is the Five of Wands. “This image of Tamara Mozahuani Alvarado holding her daughter’s hand, as they’re wearing their Aztec dance regalia, is just so sweet,” she says. “It really captures the arts and culture I experienced growing up in San Jose.”