Okay, it’s not quite a Scratch N Sniff art exhibit, but it’s close. On a Tipped Chair, an olfactory-visual show at the Gallery at The Sheen Center, features a dozen oil paintings and drawings by Canadian-born Jared Boechler; half of them are accompanied by scents in the form of leather straps placed under tiny bell jars. Many of Boechler’s paintings are inspired by emotions triggered by a particular scent, from burnt durum to lemongrass.
The 22-year-old self-taught artist likens the creative process to synesthesia. “Everyone has scent-memory: smells that remind them of a place or time and that are capable of taking you there for a fleeting moment,” he told Bedford + Bowery. “I feel like I maybe experience these things more intensely. I remember when I was growing up I couldn’t understand why these smells, these environments, affected me as much as they did. I remember thinking that maybe I was too sensitive to it all.”
With its sharp contrasts between highlights and shadows and its off-balance details, Boechler’s brand of realism conveys a general sense of unease. But the companion scents do balance things out. “I was very aware of the role that scent played in my own life, often acting as a sort of remedy,” Boechler told us. “For these works in particular, the scents they are paired with are quite often the antithesis of what is being depicted. The scents are meant to level out the unrest of the work, just as I’ve noticed it’s capable of doing for me personally in day-to-day life.”
In The Reaction, a man stands among lush vegetation, wearing a white, Hazmat-like hooded suit; his head is rotated 180 degrees from us. The tropical-dystopian canvas is paired with notes of spruce, cedar wood, pine, hinoki wood, balsam of Peru, dry hot stone and burning wood. The inspiration? A sauna Boechler visited on a research-based trip to Finland. “Saunas, in their simplest form, exist as miniature heat boxes that people visit in search of respite from the chaos and stimulus of the daily life,” reads the artist statement accompanying the scent.
“I wanted the scent to reflect a sauna environment, as these are the smells that led to the creation of the painting,” he explained. “I consider that one to be a smell of comfortable claustrophobia, and somehow warm woods achieve this for me.”
Hi The same applies to the three portraits of a woman facing away from us, undoing a bun in her impossibly lustrous hair. They’re paired with fragrances that Boechler equates with the olfactory representation of anxiety, usually courtesy of nightmarish visions of suburbia. For example, the painting Mother! goes with rubber, black agar, smoke, cut grass, gasoline, leather, lilac and cement. They trace back to a humid summer night, complete with a blood-orange sky, when a car went up in flames by his front yard.
To create the scents, Boechler partnered with Brooklyn-based House of Cherry Bomb, a niche fragrance brand helmed by Alexis Karl and Maria McElroy (who also owns the Japan-inspired brand Aroma M Perfume). Boechler connected with them through the Art and Olfactory Institute in Los Angeles, which had noticed House of Cherry Bomb for their Tobacco fragrance. (The duo also has a series of Resistance-themed perfumes, Pussy & Resist.)
Now, If only the fragrances were for sale without their companion paintings! How can we shoebox dwellers deal with canvases bigger than 24×30?
”On a Tipped Chair” continues through February 23 at Sheen Center, 18 Bleecker Street.