Last September, Parfums Lalun was launched at the LA Artisan Fragrance Salon, an event that gave me the opportunity to present my work to the public. After years of work and study in my “ivory tower” I embraced the opportunity to meet other perfumers and members of the perfume community. Upon returning home from my second Salon in San Francisco (end of March ’13), I realized there was a healthy audience of sophisticated enthusiasts, but no venue that lived up to the quality of work I had experienced at the two Salons. Since artisan/indie perfumes have such limited distribution, I felt an event that highlighted the work as art was necessary. The idea for FRAGments was born intuitively and quickly materialized within two months of its inception.
An amalgam of “fragrance” (frag is also slang for fragrance) and “movement”, FRAGments was conceived as a way to present the work of emerging and independent artists using scent as their medium. It also represented a cultural shift towards a new awareness of perfume-as-art and projects related to olfaction. As a metaphor, it evoked the image of capillaries moving away from arteries, of individuals fragmenting from the mainstream.
The first FRAGments was intended to be an introduction to the perfume-as-art genre. The perfumers selected represented a cross-section of work by established perfumers as well as those just launching. Curated as a collective, each perfume artist was asked to present up to five items from their collection. (Future events will include voices of perfumers who have not yet launched, but who have an interesting body of work.)
|FRAGments display unit mockup
Such an event would also be a form of resistance against the connection between perfumery and commerce where perfume collections are referred to as “brands” instead of “art”. Unlike the typical trade show, this event would spotlight the collective artistry of the perfumes rather than brand identity. For this reason, display units were designed to house each perfumer’s work. A uniform module conceived as a fragment of a whole, a simple “C” type extrusion with a top shelf for testers, a vertical surface for an image and a bottom shelf to display bottles and packaging. The units could be positioned in a variety of ways and would read as a common denominator within any given context. It was important to fabricate these units by hand so that the overall philosophy of the event would remain intact. It was also important for the event to be independently produced, reflecting the voices of the participants.
|Santa Monica Blvd 1950-2011, courtesy urbandiachrony.wordpress.com
It’s probably no coincidence the context for FRAGments turned out to be Los Angeles, a scrappy city that sprawls into a scruffy landscape concealing a complex and quixotic nature. It may be the end of the line for some but an open road for others, especially artists. Unlike Paris or NY, Los Angeles is not a commercial hub for perfume, but rather a crucible of ideas. Evidence to support this includes the recently formed IAO (Institute for Art and Olfaction) whose mission it is to create “an environment that encourages new exploration of the olfactive arts”. Saskia Wilson-Brown, IAO’s founder, recognized this potential and graciously accepted my request to moderate a discussion with the perfumers, the most controversial topic being the definition of independent vs. artisan perfumer . . . to be continued . . .
MorYork Gallery was chosen as the event location because Clare Graham’s work visually embodied the spirit of the diverse group of perfumers selected, who create unique, multi-faceted and experimental olfactory art. I approached Clare with the idea of a perfume-as-art event and he graciously offered his space. In doing so, he not only invited us to inhabit his gallery and intertwine our work with his, but helped validate our effort through his support.
The perfumers selected for the event were mostly from the West Coast: Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Local perfumers included Roxana Villa, Persephenie Lea, Sherri Sebastian and myself who maintain a strict handmade ethos in our search for an authentic voice. Roxana draws inspiration from the arts and crafts movement as well as from the natural beauty of her surroundings and her illustration background to create a series of botanical gems. Persephenie has an established line of fragrance and skincare but chose to present an experimental art piece related to her work as a perfumer: a beeswax painting infused with jatamansi (spikenard) paired with a handmade box of perfume curios. I presented a sculpture made with felted marino wool that invited one to touch and sniff (wool attracts odor molecules). Sherri, a professional perfumer, took an innovative direction with her line of gel-based natural fragrances.
|Zelda by Shelley Waddington
|Amanda Feeley and the Lumberjack Man
|Dawn Spenser Hurwitz
|Maggie at Persephenie's event featuring Laurie Stern
“You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
break on through to the other side.” The Doors