A neologism combining floriography and Theosophy, FLORIOSOPHY interprets coincidences of meaning in these two systems, tracing a cultural movement towards abstraction and esotericism. From the English Victorians, Americans received an enthusiasm for gardening and a code of decorum, which coalesced in floriography, or the Language of the Flowers. A profusion of books written during the early- to mid-1800s explained secret meanings of flowers, allowing lovers to send encrypted messages as symbolic bouquets. Founded in New York City in 1875, Theosophy influenced other mystical philosophies and contributed to the development of abstraction in art. The important Theosophist work Thought-Forms (1901), like the books on floriography, is a sort of dictionary decoding a hidden form of communication. In both, human emotions are expressed symbolically; through flowers and their arrangement, or through energy manifesting as abstract form and color. A performance and visual work, FLORIOSOPHY exists in the areas of overlap, where flower, form and color find energetic confluence.
SPIRIT HOUSE riffs on cross-cultural methods of house protection—objects, words and rituals used to attract beneficent or repel malevolent spirits or influences. Having grown up in southeastern Pennsylvania surrounded by Amish farms, I took the Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign as a starting point. The popular belief that hex signs are intended to keep away evil forces is in dispute, but members of the Pennsylvania Dutch community do practice a form of spiritual magic called Powwow or Braucherei. Melding Christian and pagan beliefs, this system bears similarities to Hoodoo, which was popularized in the American South. Both absorbed elements of Native American tradition, Jewish mysticism and iconic grimoires.
The nightshade or Solanaceae family of plants includes the edible potato, eggplant and tomato as well as poisonous belladonna, mandrake and thornapple. Some of these dangerous nightshades and potentially lethal species of other plant families are regularly planted for their showy flowers. Their beauty belies extreme toxicity. Paradoxically many of these poisons have medicinal use when taken in low or homeopathic doses. However the margin of safety is easily crossed. The extreme effects of these plants have been a source of awe and fascination since ancient times, giving rise to myths, folklore and ritualized usages. NIGHTSHADE draws upon this rich descriptive and imaginative history. Imagery on printed window shades and poetic texts on the window arches take inspiration from recorded usages, symptoms and beliefs described in early botanicals, Greek mythology, historical records and other sources.