Okay. Okay. I (am learning to) love LA. For me, Los Angeles is like that neighborhood kid you grew up with, who once upon a time you used to go out of your way to avoid, but now, later in life, has become one of your favorite drinking buddies. I definitely can’t ever see myself living there (the driving alone brings out that homicidal rage in me that secretly lurks inside us all), but with the passage of time, LA and I have learned to appreciate each other, even gained mutual respect for one another. We’re just never going to have that type of relationship. It’s not like me and NYC. But I never turn down a chance to spend a few days hanging out there. Oh LA, how far we’ve come.
So all this being said, I was incredibly excited to exhibit Nothing to See at this year’s AIX Scent Fair. Saskia Wilson-Brown and the entire Institute for Art and Olfaction team truly outdid themselves, partnering with the Hammer Museum in West Hollywood to put together a diverse, engaging weekend of programming aimed at examining the overlap of art, science, and scent. And it was fantastic. Before I dive head first into my LA recap, I just wanted to take a moment here to thank Saskia and Darin for their patience, bravery and tenacity, for pushing each of us to continue challenging olfactive boundaries, for all their big ideas, and lastly, for inspiring a whole new crop of creators and fans to come out for a little scent exploration. It was indeed a pleasure to spend the weekend with you both. Please keep on keeping on. I am sure I speak for everyone when I say thank you, thank you, thank you for everything that you do. But enough gushing for one paragraph… on to the recap.
Day 1: Creature Comforts
Admittedly, I’m a creature of habit. Whenever I go back to a place I’ve been before, especially when I’ve lived there as in the case of Los Angeles, I always like to start off my trip in search of the known quantity. And yes, some of this is about me catching up with familiar faces, but it’s also very much about me finding some needed comfort in equally soothing tastes and smells from my past. Like the best welcome hug you could ask for, returning to these places really helps transform a big city like Los Angeles into feeling much warmer and accommodating. So on this last LA trip, my stomach took me first back to ink. on Melrose. West coast oysters, egg yolk gnocchi, and an apple semifreddo… thank you chef. The meal was superb as always. Still one of my favorite West Coast spots to get grounded in. Afterwards, my now sated self has just about enough energy to crawl back to the hotel room, fall head first into a bed of pillows, and start the arduous process of trying to get myself on CA time. Let the fun begin. Zzz zzz…
Day 2: Wandering Stars
So Day 2 started off with a breakfast fuel-up in the hotel, before heading out to explore the alleys of Melrose (now why wasn’t THAT a TV show?). Again, Melrose is one of those places I’ve been watching change since my very first visit to LA in 1999, so definitely familiar turf. But, at least for me, the greatest thing about Melrose is all the fantastic murals and paste-ups scattered in and about its now gentrified self. As you can see from the photos, I found lots of great stuff, some work from artists I know and admire, and other pieces brand new discoveries. After a full day of roaming from La Cienega to Fairfax and back, I was feeling inspired for the days ahead. I decided to end the evening with a quiet meal in the hotel while patiently waiting for my weekend partner-in-crime to land.
Day 3: AIX Setup and Keynote Kickoff
Day 3. Olfactive creators from around the globe began descending upon the Hammer Museum in West Hollywood to prepare for the AIX Scent Fair. Hoping to borrow a little magic from the museum setting, I decided that for our little 6’x4′ space, CM would focus on the more immersive aspects of our fragrances, putting together Nothing 2 See.
Each of the Nothing 2 See black boxes you see above was designed as an individual scent cell dedicated to one of CM’s olfactive narratives (Nothing – Christopher Street, 2 – Asphalt Rainbow, and See – Eye, Hatshepsut). allowing visitors to our table to choose whether to see or not to see. Each scent was first presented outside of its box, housed in its typical stripped back bottle (a less visually-driven way to experience the composition and structure, devoid of curated visuals), and then given the opportunity to experience the same fragrance again, this time diffused inside each scent cell (a more deliberate engagement with sight and scent as first glances and sniffs were presented in unison as the box was opened). The idea behind Nothing 2 See was, through design, to seamlessly marry together the underlying Sadean asylum aesthetics of the brand, the defiant stories of the first three fragrances, and the more active qualities of olfaction that drive creation here at CM. (A more thorough walkthrough of the Nothing 2 See scent cells can be found here.)
Our little setup was nestled in between our retail friends at Tigerlily Perfumery and new friends from the Brooklyn Perfume Company. The entire fair was housed on the second floor mezzanine overlooking a courtyard below. The breeze, while sometimes challenging when winds picked up, was also a welcomed refresher as by the end of the day, it was certain to get fume-y up there. This was smart planning on the part of the organizers. With some quick hellos to the other exhibitors arriving, and setup complete, it was time to get ready for the kickoff ceremony. Time to shower, change, and give a few refresh sprays.
The weekend at the Hammer Museum officially opened to the public later that evening, beginning with a terrific opening keynote presentation from Lizzie Ostrom (AKA scent historian Odette Toilette). It was followed by a series of presentations and a little accidentally controversial panel discussion featuring Dr. Avery Gilbert, Dr. Jacquelyn Ford buy prednisone from canada More, and Chandler Burr (which you can watch here). I left the evening wondering if I was the only one who, despite the conflict-laden speech with not the smartest choice of words, was starting to notice a rallying around a new fragrance point of view. The ongoing back-and-forth between the all-natural perfume diehards and the more classically (formulaically)-minded Chandler Burr flock has itself, over the past decade and a half, spurred a new wave of olfactive innovation, compelling companies to improve the types of materials available for sustainable formulation, as well as pushing them to explore ideas outside the bounds of what was deemed possible by status quo fragrance traders. The work of the people occupying that room was a direct reflection of that very fact. And that’s pretty awesome. That then brought Friday’s events to a close, so it was back to the hotel again for a quiet dinner, and to rest up for the opening of the AIX floor. Bring on the people.
Day 4: AIX Scent Fair and AO Awards
Over the course of Day 4, we were told that almost 2000 people roamed through the AIX Scent Fair exhibition over its six hours of activity: A great mix of people and interactive scent interaction. I loved watching people’s eyes as they leaned in to sniff inside each of our scent cells… and the line to do so was nonstop from beginning to end. It was incredible. Moments like these remind me why I started Charenton Macerations in the first place. It makes every second of that work worth it. Thank you everyone who stopped by. My only wish was that I had more time to play at other people’s tables as there were some fantastic setups and I only managed to grab a few quick snapshots. What I did grab is now all housed in an album on Facebook (find it here).
That Saturday evening was the Third Annual Art and Olfaction Awards (The Golden Pears). The winners included: Zoologist Perfumes’ Bat and Jul et Mad Paris’ Néa (Independent category), La Curie’s Incendo and Auphorie’s Miyako (Artisan category), and Cat Jones’ Century’s Breath (Sadakichi Experimental Work with Scent category). The festivities were emceed by Zackary Drucker (of Transparent and I Am Cait). Congratulations to all of the finalists and Golden Pear winners.
Day 5: Mothers’ Day and More AIX Scent Fair
Sunday. Day 5. Mothers’ Day. Grabbed this little reminder of the holiday from WRDSMITH on my way back to the Hammer for another day of AIX Scent Fair activities. Of course, calling my mom had to wait until later that evening (Happy Mothers’ Day mom!!!). Mothers and children (and so many others) were out in full force, taking in a leisurely afternoon of smelling fragrances. With so many people on hand for the first day, the museum switched to timed tickets for the exhibition, producing a steady flow of inquisitive sniffers all the way up to closing. That’s my partner below, giving me a much needed pee break (only got enough time for one on Sunday), and better yet, affording me the chance to snap this great picture of him walking through Nothing 2 See.
A blog post walkthrough of the Nothing 2 See installation is here, and includes information on when/where those of you who missed experiencing it at the Hammer can maybe catch another chance. For now, here are just a few quick peeks inside the scent cells including some imagery from the upcoming Charenton Macerations fragrance launch, Eye, Hatshepsut.
And that officially ended AIX Scent Fair. Once the floor was cleared, there was only enough time left to break down the table and get everything prepared to ship back to NYC. Dinner and celebratory drinks at Lucque’s capped off the busy weekend. Needless to say, upon leaving the excitement, I slept very well that night. What a truly incredible weekend. Bravo to IAO and the Hammer. Thank you again for letting us be a part.
Day 6: Mapplethorpe, LACMA, and Scent Bar
Day 6. With the AIX Scent Fair officially behind us, the last few days were filled with more free roaming around Los Angeles. First on my list was a required stop at LACMA for two really interesting exhibits: the Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective, and the Reigning Men fashion installation. Both tied in quite nicely with the Queer History of Fashion piece I had written last year for CaFleurebon. I also happened upon Magritte’s The Liberator (1947) in the Surrealism wing, which I had yet to see in person and couldn’t seem to walk away from. This infusion of other inspiring works of art was exactly what the doctor ordered as I began processing the rest of the past weekend.
After LACMA, there was just enough time for a quick drop-in at Scent Bar on Beverly (CM’s official LA retailer)… an idea that I seemed to share with many of the other brand owners from the weekend’s festivities. Special thanks to Steven Gontarski and the Scent Bar staff for enduring the flash of pandaemonium. At Scent Bar, I also finally got a chance to sniff the new Eris Perfumes by Barbara Herman. Added Belle de Jour to my personal collection. Only one day left until jetting back to the east coast.
Day 7: The Getty, DTLA and Home James
Day 7. The final day. The countdown to my red-eye flight back to NYC had officially begin. Only a few short hours left to do sneak in some last minute exploring. The day started with a quick dash out to the J. Paul Getty Museum with jtdjtd of Scenthurdle to walk through the continuation of the Mapplethorpe exhibition (if you don’t know jtdjtd’s blog, you should definitely check it out, as the writing is some of the best on the web IMO). From there, it was back to DTLA for a run-in with one of my closest friends from school, and to meet the newest little addition to her litter (that’s my new best friend in the picture above). After some food, drinks, and catching up, it was time to leave for LAX. And thus ended the week’s adventures in LA. Until next time…