A Dark Perfume

In 2011 I began work on a suite of three oil-on-canvas paintings on the theme of scent. Each was to be related formally to the others, but each was to represent a different part (or stage in the life) of the scent—the front (what perfumers call the “head”), the middle notes (or “heart”), and the foundation (called the “base,” which also relates to the final point in the scent’s life, sometimes called the “dry-down”). Work on the paintings continued sporadically for nearly a year and a half. They were finally exhibited at Southern Utah University’s Braithwaite Gallery of Art in early 2013, along with their actual counterparts in scent. In order to dramatize the distinctions between the three stages, I offered three great modern examples of olfactory art—iunx Éther, Lubin Idole and iunx Sento, all by Olivia Giacobetti—to which I dared to add, respectively, a classic “top” (bergamot), “middle” (linden) and “bottom” (frankincense). Each of these was made available for the viewers to smell from a cloche placed under the corresponding painting.