Good morning folks, and welcome back to another art-icle here  in the Mirror Gallery on Hipsters of the Coast. Today I’m returning to my Secret Layers of Secret Lair series for the first of two articles looking at the Secret Lair: The Astrology Lands cards that began dropping in January 2022.

The series is traditionally illustrated in its entirety by new Magic artist Jeanne D’Angelo, and each calendar month (or so), a new sign drops in accordance with their astrological dates. This entire collection has been a learning experience of this extraordinary description of the universe, and as someone not overly familiar with astrology, I’d like to share some of what the artist has shared alongside what I’ve learned through this first half of artworks.

The Project & The Artist

In her own words, Jeanne M. D’Angelo is an artist of myth, magic & monsters, and what better cross section could there be but basic lands inspired by zodiac form and figure. This project was completed in the first three months of 2021 and art directed by the inimitable Wizards of the Coast Creative Director Jessica Lanzillo. D’Angelo mentions in her first blog post surrounding the cards that Lanzillo was inspired by her Endless Sky zine from 2019, and you can certainly see it’s a perfect point of departure for what Wizards was looking for.

Together with astrologer Maya Brooks, the signs were thoughtfully mapped to basic land types and then designed and painted in accordance with their Magic: The Gathering roots as mana producers. Both D’Angelo and Brooks reside in Philadelphia, and that ongoing discussion last year between artist, astrologer, and West Coast art director led us to where we are now, halfway through a twelve land series of psychedelic color, mythological magic, and symbolic storytelling. What follows is a mixture of information gleaned from D’Angelo’s blog and my own research to try and better understand exactly what we behold in this set of work.

Capricorn (December 22 – January 19)

Capricorn Swamp by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Our adventure across the stars began in January 2022 with the release of the Capricorn Swamp. An Earth sign, Jeanne took her inspiration from the rulership of Saturn over Capricorn, and the “connection of chthonic gods with wealth, both material mineral wealth and fecundity that comes from the underworld and the earth.”  As such we see the skeletal sea goat of Capricorn in active decay underneath a fantastic cypress, with gems scattered about the landscape as twilight twinkles in the background. Death has produced wealth, and the fecundity of the swamp is realized by way of astrological symbology.

I should also note that Jeanne mentioned using no black except for deep shadow unless it was mixed with another color, and in many cases she used royal blue in its place. That technique is on full display here, and I absolutely love it when artists take the ‘black’ Swamps of Magic and incorporate blues, purples, and pinks. It provides a unique, ethereal layer to an otherwise monochromatic landscape.

Aquarius (January 20 – February 18)

Aquarius Island by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Aquarius coming as an Island may be no surprise, but this astrological creation gives us a bit more than we’ve come to expect from more routine iterations of the Blue basic land. In her blog post the artist reveals Aquarius is actually an air sign (who knew?), and as such Jeanne made the sky a major focus, drawing inspiration from the aforementioned Endless Sky zine and the psychedelic schema of the 1970s. The more traditional pop-culture symbol of Aquarius, the vessel of Ganymede, is seen as the Island itself, with water cascading toward the sea.

This is also the sign of the artist, and as such has the most “pop psychology.” The sunken city we see below the surface speaks to the idea of “being inscrutable on the surface yet plugged into big complex and expansive cosmic ideas.” We’re only two lands in but it’s abundantly clear that when it comes to D’Angelo’s work, there is always more than meets the eye.

Pisces (February 19 – March 20)

Pisces Island by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Pisces came as another Island, and this time the water sign (actually a water sign, too) took the more traditional form in both senses: fish in the form of their constellation take shape under the surface of a sunset isle in the larger sea. Much like its Aquarian sibling, Pisces plays on the idea of something under the surface, but in a more mysterious and illusory way, as if it might not exist at all. The ocean depths below symbolize the endless subconscious, which as D’Angelo mentions, is perfect for a sign associated with introspection.

Jeanne drew her inspiration from storybook tales of sailors headed for land but instead finding themselves on the backs of giants or whales or turtles. She recalls the First Voyage of Sinbad from Arabian Nights, and that leave us thinking, perhaps this Island we see is not an Island at all?

Aries (March 21 – April 19)

Aries Mountain by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

The first Mountain of the series was that of Aries, the erupting volcano in the form of the Ram, and perhaps the most symbolic (without being literal) of the first of these lands. Brooks and D’Angelo worked from the idea that Aries, the first fire sign of the new year, was the spark of a new beginning, and the lava a catalyst for fertility and new life, cleansing the old and creating a palette for the new. You can see once again on her blog post her referencing of her Endless Skies project, alongside the incorporation of anecdotal inspiration of past conversations, books, and and even an Instagram account.

The Aries Mountain is the realized form of the melting pot of the artistic mind, where wonderful ideas mix and mingle until they congeal into a beautiful final form, just like a volcanic eruption. It’s immediately recognizable as both a Mountain and it’s astrological form, and has been one of the most popular so far.

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)

Taurus Forest by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

The following month was the debut of the Taurus Forest, the first green land in the Magic series and another commentary on new beginnings. The artist notes that the earth sign Taurus, ruled by Venus, sits at the seasonal transition between the spring equinox and summer solstice, and as such we see a gateway out of the forest and towards the sun by way of the bulls horns, stepping from one season to another.

She talks quite a bit about the mythology behind the bull’s horns on her blog post, from it roots in early Mesopotamia as the Bull of Heaven to the fact that the sun actually used to rise through the “bull’s horns” until the Earth’s wobble moved it’s placement over the last thousands of years. Learning little facts like these have been so much fun, and for those of you planning to collect these lands, you’re now armed with some super interesting factoids for your next Commander game.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)

Gemini Mountain  by Jeanne D’Angelo. Traditional.

Revealing last week was the second air sign, Gemini, the Twins. This is also my sign, so I took a particular interest in learning about her headspace in its creation (which started this explorative rabbit hole in the first place)! In working with astrologer Maya Brooks and having settled on the Mountain, the idea was to paint two things that were similar but still legibly different, symbolizing the likeness yet underlying dichotomy of the Twins.

The Air-centric sky returns once again, and I cannot get over the colors and imbued motion we see. As our eye travels down the work, we find the two masked cave entrances situated at the same point in which the twin heads are found in the sky, Twin Peaks rising in the distance, the same but also very different. I love this work and everything that has gone into it.

Wrapping Up

This concludes the first half of our star-crossed journey through the Secret Lair Astrology lands, and I’ll return closer to the end of the year to do the same thing with the second half of the released cards. These works are a brilliant addition to the overall Magic landscape, and the Secret Lair the perfect vehicle for their delivery. They bring the elements of artist, astrologer, and card game, four things that would never intersect on their own, together into a beautiful astrological anthology. Regardless of what astrology nay-sayers might yell on social media, this is an incredible collection of artwork, and needs to be celebrated as such.

To see more about Jeanne’s work, you can visit her website or follow her on Instagram, which is also where you can find her collaborating astrologer Maya Brooks. Much of what I’ve referenced here can be found on Jeanne’s blog, and she plans to create a new post each time a card is released.

And if you’re interested in prints, they are available in her INPRNT shop: you can purchase images of the full art lands as they appear on the cards, as well as smaller emblems she created to go along with the larger depictions.

Looking ahead, the next Mirror Gallery will be a bit of a different Grand Art Tour through the work of Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, and a similar article will be on it’s heels for the soon to be releasing Double Masters 2.

Remember, to see original #mtgart and other #vorthos related things, follow me on Twitter. Feel free to ask questions or retweet to continue the conversation. Thanks and see you next time!

Donny Caltrider has been playing Magic since 2002 and collecting original Magic art since 2017. He has an M.A. in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and enjoys telling stories about art, objects, and the intersection of fantasy with real-life. You can find him on Twitter talking about #mtgart, museums, and other #vorthos related goodness. Follow along and continue the conversation!

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