DECODING FLOWERS the allegory of Tussie-Mussie a sweet-smelling and deeply symbolic text message by Joanna M. Wezyk.
My new body of work is about the graceful and mysterious art of speaking through flowers. Immensely popular in Victorian times, “Tussie-Mussie” or “Talking Bouquets,” sweet smelling and deeply symbolic floral arrangements hid not only secret messages, but also declared everlasting love, best wishes for a happy birthday, marked anniversary, sent consolations, or broke engagements.
The origin of the western language of flowers, an intricate system of floral symbolism, was inspired by the Turkish custom of selam, in which the recipient of the bouquet had to decode its meaning based on guessing games, poetry, and rhymes. That idea was popularized in Europe by the Turkish Embassy Letters of Lady Mongau and greatly improved in La Langage des Fleurs written by Madam de Latour. Countless numbers of floral dictionaries were published in Europe and eventually in America and Canada. They described all varieties of flowers including their symbolism and origins from classical mythology, folklore, religious beliefs, medieval legends, and poetry through the examples of “talking bouquets” aka “tussie-mussie,” and “word posies” called Floral Oracle. Sending bluebells for example, indicated that the sender considered the recipient loyal and unselfish, while red gladioli conveyed serenity or faithfulness. Sending French Marigolds denoted jealousy while orange lilies could symbolize pride or hatred. If the flowers were sent upside down the opposite meaning was intended, for example tulips presented with their stems up meant rejection.
In Decoding Flowers, I explore the Victorian fascination with the language of flowers from the Turkish game of corresponding with bouquets, to the European and American take on this phenomenon, such as L.M. Mongomery’s series Anne of Green Gables. Through those paintings I explore the power of imagination and making one’s surroundings more interesting and beautiful than they are in reality. They decode the beauty of childhood memories preserved in the open space, museum-like homes of Anne which also sadly expose the truth hidden behind the writer’s own obscure and complex life. Anne of Green Gables was my beloved childhood character, but only a few years ago after visiting Prince Edward Island did I realize the full meaning of her story.
In the seventeenth century, the “tulip-mania” – a phenomenon that came from Ottoman Empire became a national obsession in the Netherlands. Selling and buying tulip bulbs took place in such frenzy that the economy of the entire country was put in jeopardy. The amazing side effect of tulip-mania was a Dutch still-life genre we have been loving and admiring for the past 300 years. Therefore I included some of my Turkish paintings from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. I was inspired by its beauty, the design patterns of Iznik tiles, and magic carpets with floral decorations.
In Decoding Flowers, my intension was to enable the paintings to metaphorically correspond with each other. Forsaken Anemones would speak about anticipation, Turkish tulips would mention forgiveness and desire, Pansies would to be saying “you occupy my thoughts,” and red poppies would dream of the dream of remembrance… “Taking Bouquets,” constant, throughout the centuries in all cultures and civilizations seem to be questioning today’s impute of technology in texting, emailing, and communicating via cell phones versus being physically in touch with friends and nature.