Monday, September 23, 2013

The Secret (Chinese) Life of Peonies

I'm not ready for fall -- not by a long shot -- but with this image, Banksy makes me want to get ready.  Vomiting flowers is what I do as an artist. I'm fairly convinced that I've got acres upon acres of an English country garden in my creative belly, and everything in me is wanting to spew it all out.

I fell in love with the peony this summer and wore them like crazy.  They make me so happy. I have no idea why. Of course if I put flowers on my head and sing jazz, the whole world swears that I look exactly like Billie Holiday, which is disturbing because quite obviously I don't resemble her at all.  And peonies are not gardenias. (The flowers are actually an homage to The Pointer Sisters, whom I adored when I was a kid.)  As it turns out, I was instinctively reaching for something more.

In Chinese culture, the peony is the flower of spring and is referred to as the king (or queen) of flowers. It was grown for medicinal purposes for 2,000 years (the root is used to cure convulsions, menstrual cramps and asthma, for example) before anyone fell in love with those gigantic blossoms. It's symbolic of nobility -- perhaps because it was popular in imperial palaces in the Sui and Tang dynasties -- and is a metaphor for female beauty.  It always represents elegance and poise. When it is closed, the peony and the ants that labor tirelessly on its behalf (it can't open without them) symbolizes industriousness and optimism.  In full bloom, it symbolizes peace -- and the rewards of hard work.

In Japan, the peony symbolizes wealth, good fortune, honor, daring and masculine bravery.

The Greek translation of peony is "praisegiving" -- and in Europe, the peony is called "the rose without thorns" and symbolizes a happy marriage.

All of what that flower symbolizes encompasses so much of who I am as an artist and as a person.  Stylewise, I'm not so sure I'll ever be able to walk away from them completely...

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