Saturday, May 21, 2016

Karen Azoulay | Flowers and Their Meanings

Karen Azoulay
Flowers and Their Meanings
New York City, USA: Self-published, 2015
[20] pp., 25.5 x 20.5 cm., staple-bound
Edition size unknown

Floriography is a means of cryptological communication through the use of flower arrangements. Often called "the language of flowers", the practice dates back thousands of years, and peaked in popularity in the 19th century. Sentiments that could perhaps not be spoken aloud in Victoria society were expressed through gifts of blooms, plants, and precise floral arrangements. The recipient would decode the message through the use of floral dictionaries.

Hundreds of these volumes were produced in the England, France, the US, Belgium, Germany and South America. The inconsistencies in their content presumably led to some mistranslations, the consequences of which could be somewhat grave, given the range of emotions expressed. The Tiger Lily, for example, signifies "pride" but the Orange Lily "dislike". A White Rose means "I am worthy of you", but a dried White Rose indicates "death before dishonour".

Other sentiments include "I am dazzled by your charms" (Ranunculus), "the perfection of female loveliness" (Justicia), "your friendship is agreeable and pleasing to me" (Glycine),  "I shall not survive you" (Black Mulberry Tree) and "sourness of temper" (Barberry).

Azoulay's beautifully produced volume compiles hundreds of examples sourced from a variety of historic texts. They are illustrated with eleven full-page colour photographs by the artist. The information is arranged alphabetically, first by plant name, and again by emotion.

The book is available in Canada from Art Metropole, here, for $24.00 CDN, and from the artist, here, for $18.00 US.

This week Azoulay announced the Floriography Jacket, a collaborative project with fashion designer George McCracken. Made to order in an edition of ten, the jacket is available in both men's and women's styles. It can be purchased here, for $375 US, and comes with a copy of the bookwork.

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