Scents conjure up times, people, and places distant from the here and now. At the heart of Kate McLean’s Sensory Maps is the power of aromas, their ability to trigger and concretize emotion and memory. McLean, born and raised in Britain, was inspired by the idea that we form our experience of place through sensory perception. She has researched, recreated, and charted the dominant scents of several cities to paint urban portraits through smell. This ongoing cartographic project is partially intended as a corrective in a world that strongly favors visual and aural information. Through capturing and diagramming the defining smells of a place, McLean tells a city’s history and describes its character. Like postcards and souvenirs, the heightened awareness of scent can enhance a visitor’s memories; for the residents of a community, local scents are signifiers of history and identity.
William Hogarth (1697–1764), the eighteenth-century English artist known for his satirical views of contemporary life, first published The Four Times of Day engravings in 1738, based on paintings completed two years earlier. Although some of Hogarth’s other series profess a moral, the intent of these works was to portray humorous caricatures of contemporary figures. The images are rich in detail, providing a glimpse into the world of 1730s London.
C-MacKenzie (Chris MacKenzie) removes the background imagery from his photographs, creating uncanny visions of people in surreal blank settings. Although his figures often assume the pose of spectators, they gaze upon nothingness. In creating these images, C-MacKenzie draws on his background in motion picture editing and post production, in which mistakes are removed from an image and figures are pasted to scenery. He envisions his artistic process as “withholding information” from the viewer. By negating the sense of place, C-MacKenzie creates an unknowable and mysterious world.
Last month at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, Eliza Stamps, with her collaborator Amy Linsenmayer, unveiled the first edition of The Kiosk—a micro, mobile exhibition space that can be adapted to house a variety of art projects in different locations. Rent-a-Grandma, the premier Kiosk installation, on view through November 25, is a cozy interior where visitors can interact with actual grandmothers.
There is a long history of artists going out into the natural world to portray its beauty and learn its secrets. Among the most well known are artists like Claude Monet, who painted from his Giverny garden in France, depicting the shifting light and seasonal changes, and naturalists like James Audubon, who created detailed illustrations of American birds that are valued both as works of art and as scientific documents. Today, there is a revived en plein air trend among artists who make novel use of natural elements. Three artists working in this mode are Peter Matthews and the collaborative team formed by Paul Bartow and Richard Metzgar. By utilizing ocean water and the movement of trees, respectively, these artists relinquish control of their compositions to environmental processes, allowing nature to become not only the subject of their work but also the agent of its production.
Tatiana Garmendia was inspired to create this series of work, which includes both embroideries stitched into military netting and drawings on paper, by a conversation she had with a veteran who had recently returned from serving in Iraq. Marrying poses from Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment, the altar fresco in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, with portraits of soldiers in contemporary military uniforms, she created scenes that refer both to the landscape of present day war and an artistic interpretation of heaven.