The Scent Of A Painting


I've been encouraging my students to make a weekly or monthly Artist's Date with themselves as a way of finding their voice. It's an idea that I got from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way and I took my own advice last week and headed over to Naropa's Nalanda Gallery to see my friend Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's new show, Quintessence. Dawn is a wonderfully talent fragrance composer – you can learn more about her shop DSH Perfumes here.  For my 50th birthday I had her create a scent just for me – a service that she offers out of her essence studio along with an amazing line of beautifully structured and crafted natural perfumes. I only wish we had "smell-a-vision" or "scent-a-Macs" whatever – just a way for you to take in her scented world.  


A classically trained painter with a BFA from Boston University's College of Fine Arts she found the beguiling world of perfumery and aromatherapy 20 years ago and has made quite a name for herself in the world of niche perfumery. In this show she seeks "to compel the viewer to experience the work in new, deeply felt ways. The visual art work combined with aromatic translations expresses the emotional impact of pure color and the unseen experience we all carry within us: sometimes untouched." Next to each gorgeously saturated painting is a small vial of "perfume" which one can unscrew the lid and walk back to view the painting while taking in the "scent sculpture" she created for each painting.


A listing of each of the components accompanies the scent. 100% botanical, each is alluring but not harsh or overpowering – no synthetic chemical structures here – just a sensual reverie of deeply felt scent. The scents went straight to some part of my reptilian brain and then traversed  small universes to some other part of my brain where I was suddenly experiencing the colors of the paintings in a new enhanced and enchanting way.


My time at the gallery was utterly transformative and truly beautiful. The notes for the scent in this deeply hued painting were: Davana, Cassis Bud, Blackberry, Osmanthus, Orris Root, Violet, Sandalwood, Buddahwood, Atlas Cedarwood, Patchouli and Myrrh Gum – amazing.


Imagine: Lemon, Bergamont, Mint, Seaweed, Wild Camomile, Pink Grapefruit, Waterlily, DSH Aroma Color Cyan…


Imagine: DSH Fire Opal, DSH Poivre, Saffron, Black Pepper, Pimento Berry, Amber

From Dawn's gallery notebook: "The sense of smell is called the fifth sense. Do we use all the senses we have to experience our lives fully? This show is called Quintessence: It is about multiplicity of experience…what happens in the space between the earth and the sky. This space is where we live and where we dream." If you get a chance, stop the gallery and experience this amazing multi-sensory work. Getting to know Dawn has made me much more aware of the olfactory elements of my world – the scents and smells of the of the earth and the sky, as well as the space between. A lovely gift.

2 Responses to The Scent Of A Painting

  1. Stephanie says:

    phew…strange comment above, gotta love those

    anyway, Fran,
    what a wonderful post, thank you for pointing me in this direction, I hope to catch this show.


  2. Lisa Hoffman says:

    Beautiful. I remember the day that Leah and I spent with you and Dawn, watching the two of you “Build” your scent. I hope you don’t mind the fact that I slam my nose into your arm every time that we get together….

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