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PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 26.2 (2004) 61-65

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On The Veranda
A Conversation

Gae Savannah

Somewhere in Asia, Meung Shei and Wysteria lounge on the veranda, off the back salon of the main house. Chatting over tea, they toss about some of the meanings inherent in their names, fabrics, and accoutrements.

WYSTERIA: Oh my, the Puritans are acting up again.

MEUNG SHEI: Oh, and amongst the rustic New England prairie cottages and darling forest animals, Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown is off to his high-minded appointment.

WYSTERIA: Yes, and beribboned Faith is true-heartedly endeavoring to rein in her God-fearing husband.

MEUNG SHEI: Yeah, heh heh, Brown has scared the be-Jesus out of her?

WYSTERIA: . . . and, not imprudently I daresay. Anyway, see this Puritan guy galloping through the forest across the fabric? He is chasing down a lady riding through town naked on a white horse. For centuries in the Pagan era, this maiden's ride ensured a rich and prodigious harvest for the season, but the Puritans will clamp down on such debauchery.

MEUNG SHEI: Yes, like all the other bacchanalian occasions such as May Day (Floralia) that they squelched in cold pursuit of higher moral ground?


MEUNG SHEI: Wysteria,your interior magenta Christmas ornaments, do they have anything to do with the month-long, December, Pagan festival, Saturnalia?

WYSTERIA: Sure. The Christmas tree is one of the only remaining vestiges of Pagan colorful celebration of nature and its cycles; not to mention, mystical acknowledgement of our unruly passions. The practice of garnishing the tree with ribbons and shiny globes began as a measure to pay homage to the woodland spirits during their difficult winter "death" months.

MEUNG SHEI: So, as in Mists of Avalon, there is a bit of a clash going on in these charmed woods—does seem as if Puritan Christian social structure is prevailing?

WYSTERIA: Well, as Bradley lamely ended her book with all the remaining Avalon girls at the nunnery, you might [End Page 61] think so, but I can't be that fatalistic. Just as your ethereal pool suggests, Meung Shei, the mystical sentience of nature isn't going anywhere. In Morocco for example, the mystical is everywhere, with the haunting call to prayer resonating in the air through alleyways and tuffeted salons alike.

MEUNG SHEI: Didn't you say your maize backdrop with repeated vase pattern is from Morocco? On one hand, the stylized pattern is so sentimental. It evokes the frivolity and vacuity associated with a European Rococo style interior.

WYSTERIA: Well, most of the fabrics reveal both profound and superficial layers of cultural meaning. While my multifarious greens intimate yin (female principle), the glowing yellow can be the warmth and graciousness of the Moroccans. As a matter of fact, yellow evokes simultaneously radiating emotions and keen mental energy. Something like the emotional impact of your intellect.

MEUNG SHEI: Hmmm? Hey, doesn't Wysteria the flower itself, signify generous welcoming as well as mental clarity?

WYSTERIA: Indeed. It's amazing, the name just popped up from nowhere, midstream in the process of my construction. It turns out it's one of the official plants for the Pagan Imbolic (later renamed Candlemas) festival of lights. This celebration of the increasing power of the light in early Spring (February 1st) connects Wysteria to the illumination, fire, of both the inspiration and crafting of art.

MEUNG SHEI: Wow. And other symbols, deer for instance, which connotes not only the feminine, but also intuitive wisdom—did you intentionally weave everything together?

WYSTERIA: No oh! On the contrary, the intuitive art process created the tapestry. Just now, I'm unraveling some of the meanings. Actually, with all these rather deep implications, it's ironic that my composition evolved out of a vague recollection of Kim Novak in the trashy Hollywood film The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders. I had this picture in my mind of her all in laced-up, blousy bodice and full skirts with arms laden with laundry to hang.

MEUNG SHEI: Na ha ah...


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