Scratch and Sniff: Art That Smells

“Beauty is in the nose of the beholder” — Anonymous

When it comes to art, beauty is in the mind of the beholder, usually after the eye hands it to you. Now what about smell? Can smells be a form of art? I recently read about an art show where the artist had focused on the creation of works that employed varieties of smells. We know texture has a place in visual arts, even when we’re instructed by museum guards not to touch it.

Wired magazine recently did a story on New York artist Martynka Wawrzyniak who told journalist Hugh Hart, “I follow my nose in terms of how I read and react to other people, so I’ve always been obsessed with olfactory senses.” Her art is proof that anything is possible in the post-Duchamp art world. I think “Don’t see me or feel me or touch me, just smell me” pretty much sums it up since the artist’s aim was a self-portrait “completely stripped of the visual prejudice that we usually associate with judging a person, or judging a woman specifically,”

Wawrzyniak isn’t the only one fascinated by the art of smell. Sissel Tolaas has a personal collection of over 7,000 smells and 2500 molecules related to smell. Jenny Holtzer and Helmut Lang collaborated on an art projected related to smell and skin. Scent is beginning to makes sense for other artists as well. This Pinterest page includes Clara Ursitti, Andrea Mack and many other artists who are incorporating scent into their art.

Of course landscape artists and people who maintain flower gardens have been doing this for centuries. It’s not just for visual consumption. As you draw near a spectacular garden the fragrance can make you swoon. If you’re ever down in Sarasota visiting Ca’ d’Zan and the Ringling Museum, be sure to stop and smell the roses.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Breathe it in through your nose.

Originally published at
Photos from Ringling Museum, Sarasota, by the Author.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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