Whiff of Creativity

Imaginary Cosmos #3

Four days after battling the grip of Covid, I attempted to eat, only to find nothing appealing. It was then that I realized the loss of my sense of smell, a blow that dulled the vibrancy of life, revealing the profound impact of a sense I had previously taken for granted.

Months later, a serendipitous encounter at John Backer Marionette Theater led me to Saskia Wilson-Brown, the passionate owner of The Institute of Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles. She offers access to hands-on education, much of which was traditionally available only to professional perfumers. Saskia’s non-profit space is divided into a classroom, laboratory, library, and a small art gallery.

Art and Olfaction Classroom

Homesickness Kit for Spacefarers

On view, was Carrie Paterson‘s exhibition. Carrie works at the intersection of philosophy, science and art. I was captivated by her creations, particularly her “Homesickness Kit for Spacefarers”, a reminder of my own “Imaginary Cosmos” photographs. Reflecting on the scents that I would miss while traveling in space, I went back to my formative years in France—a freshly baked baguette, the salty breeze of low tide, the earthy fragrance of humid forests, and the aromatic scrubland after a hot summer day in Provence.

A few days ago, during a visit to the Los Angeles County Art Museum, there was a painting about a woman having coffee and cookies accompanied by a black box emitting the scent of coffee. In the other wing of the museum Ed Rusha had installed his “Chocolate Room” (made of gunpowder and cocoa butter scents).

Painting with the coffee box

Ed Rusha’s Chocolate Room

 Saskia’s annual Art and Olfaction Award celebrates independent perfumers and artists like finalist Alisa Banks, whose intricate glass vials captured the essence of human experience in her artist book “History of a People.”

Inspired by these encounters, I am considering integrating scents into my own artistic practice. It could add a new layer of sensory experience to my creations, alongside sound (Voyage (en train)) and texture (Memories of Egypt). The possibility of evoking memories and emotions through scent intrigues me, opening doors to new forms of expression and collaboration.


PS: I asked Carrie what the moon smells like, and she answered, “metal and burned meat!