In a small art exhibit inside Chicago’s South Loop, perfume enthusiasts and artisans gathered to take part in the fourth annual Gorilla Gallery. Using an array of mixed media displays and interactive exhibits, the gallery asked guests to dwell on what home meant to them and the scents that they associated with it.
Collaboration Between Art and Perfume
The Gorilla Gallery started as a compilation between Lush’s head perfumer, Simon Constantine, and Dallas-born artist Hal Samples. In its fourth year, the exhibit has traveled around the world showcasing art installations that incorporate fragrances.
"[Lush] seems to have found a space within the fragrance world. One of both artistic and commercial means."
Comparing fragrance to music, Samples said, “There are times when you're going through something in your life and a song just connects with how you're feeling. It becomes 'your song,' and you feel better because of it. You almost feel like you wrote the song because you've connected with it so much.”
Capturing the Scent of Syria
Starting off the exhibit were two rooms and three fragrances that told the story of Constantine’s travel to Syria. The first room featured the fragrance Road From Damascus, which included scents of Damascus rose and hints of bitter orange. The exhibit and fragrance were influenced by Constantine’s search for perfume ingredients in the area.
The second room was an art installation modeled after a Lebanese-styled room, including a sitting area and Middle Eastern linens and drapery. The two fragrances featured Cardamom Coffee and Manouche Zataar, which were inspired by the hospitality Constantine experienced while visiting the people in the Syrian refugee camps.
Slices of Americana
Towards the middle of the exhibit, the focus shifted from the Middle East to what home means for many in the United States. The three rooms and five fragrance featured in them related to traditional themes of the American home.
In this space, fragrances were inspired by slices of Americana, from a 1960s stove with the scent of baked goods to a vintage room filled with Polaroid photos and floral scents. Three fragrances were inspired by Constantine’s late grandmother, which include Secret Garden, Sweet Grandma and Model.
Tucked away in a corner of this part of the exhibit was a kitchen table with coloring books. Guests were invited to color a page or smell Amelie Mae, a fragrance inspired by Constantine’s youngest daughter.
Fragrance as Pain and Healing
Rounding out the exhibit were several installations inspired by the other half of the compilation. The first of which was a room filled with mesh drapes and the fragrance Iamesh. Iamesh was inspired by a painful surgery that Sample received in an effort to correct a mesh implant.
Directly following it was the Self Esteem Machine, a room and fragrance that captured the moment Sample felt after the surgery. In this room, exhibitors are given a chance to dance off the bad vibes and enjoy the scents of vanilla, mandarin and grapefruit from the Self Esteem Machine fragrance.
Bridging the Gap
Though Lush is more known for its festive bath products and homemade skin care products, it seems to have found a space within the fragrance world. One of both artistic and commercial means.
Saskia Wilson-Brown of the Institute of Art of Olfaction once said, “if there is a higher intention ... beyond sales and sexiness, then you are in the space of art.” If that is the case, Lush has bridged the gap between the two, leading with the artistic and following it up with a commercial product.
With a declined interest in celebrity fragrance and big brands that are challenged with garnering the influence that it once did, what can Lush's mixed media tell us? Is there a way to incorporate experience and story-telling with a product that appeals to consumers? Time will tell.