Common scents

With rare exceptions, art objects are created to be experienced through our sense of sight. My piece “Common Scents” is one of many sensational works in an exhibition titled “The Other Four” at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, ND. Work in the exhibition brings our attention to the four, typically back-staged senses (touch, hearing, scent and taste), opening up a realm of experience that is often overshadowed by our visual programming. 

As you’ve probably guessed, the sense I’m working with is scent. It’s one of the less appreciated senses, the one we consciously rely on the least to navigate our world. At a subliminal level, scent gives us quite a bit of information. Scents, like sounds, trigger memories and emotions we thought we’d forgotten.

Detail view of "Common Scents" installed at the Plains Art Museum

Common Scents explores the connection between scents and words. I’m not suggesting that words have a scent. (However, we know exactly what the word “bacon” smells like.) Common Scents suggests that we associate a scent with an idiom or phrase. For instance, the scent of Delicious Feelings could trigger the phrase “Good lovin’ gone bad” for a guy once married to someone who doused herself with that perfume. Could becoming more consciously aware of our sense of smell, and the information that scents bring to us, enhance our common sense?

Viewers of "Common Scents" installation

Viewers of “Common Scents” are encouraged to uncork the bottles, sniff, and explore the associations that arise. All fifth graders in Fargo will be visiting “The Other Four,” and in addition to experiencing my piece they will be able to touch the other side of the world and listen to conversations in the walls of the museum.

Guest Curator John Schuerman

“The Other Four” was conceived by artist and curator John Schuerman. This was a challenging exhibition to place not only because it broke the classic “no-touch” museum rules. Several of the pieces in the exhibition require ongoing maintenance.

Other artists in the exhibition include David Andree, Pedram Baldari, David Bowen, Kate Casanova, Irve Dell, Alison Hiltner, Nooshin Hakim Javadi, Yevgeniya Kaganovich, Aida Shahghesemi, Ken Steinbach, and Liza Sylvestre.

“The Other Four”
June 13 – November 30, 2019
Plains Art Museum, ND

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