Friday, December 11, 2009

Lost In Scent

7 – 10 December 2009

All right. The subject was Marilyn Minter – just bear that in mind, please, and remember that the first encounter under discussion here was with painting and photography at the Regen Projects second space. Okay? – because I know at least a few people – specifically Artillery readers (and goddess knows EVERYBODY should be reading Artillery regularly by now) – reading this are going to think – ‘Oh wait – you mean it’s okay for Marilyn Minter to do this sort of thing, but not Kenny Scharf?

First of all – bear in mind those Scharfs were paintings in a gallery and the discussion focused on the specific qualities of those paintings relative to other, generally speaking, commercial phenomena – including stuff that would fall into the context we now find ourselves – commercial, retail, mass-merchandised, utility/luxury/specialty goods – all of which are fine (and that applies to Scharf’s ventures out in this part of the world, too).

That said, the nexus here is a bit more narrow, more focused – and really not much of a stretch – certainly for MAC, if not Minter; and considering those colors in her paintings and photographs – of both cosmetic (and perhaps cosmetically enhanced) surfaces and flesh, as well as other physical phenomena – and the way they practically explode on the panel surfaces – variously pooling, eddying, sinking into and effervescing off the picture plane in varying densities and saturations – perhaps it’s not THAT surprising or unexpected that Minter might agree to collaborate on what after all are colors intended to be applied to the human face.

Okay – can we forget about it now? – because, as I said, MAC is no longer carried at the Barneys New York Beverly Hills store. But my disappointment faded rapidly amid the aggressive pre-holiday cheer – I guess that translates into salesmanship. Visiting make-up artists and stylists seemed to be everywhere and at least half the counters were busy with customers submitting themselves to full make-overs. Fragrance salespeople seemed particularly eager to show customers the new fragrances, holding out sleek new flacons and atomizers, waving engraved cards sprayed with fragrance – a retail phenomenon to which I’m ordinarily very resistant. (I alternate between two fragrances (when I wear fragrance at all) – the original blue-and-gold 4711 Cologne and Chanel No. 5 (the eau de toilette more often than the perfume) and rarely experiment with much else.) What can I say? It had been a long time since I was last at a make-up counter, much less a Barneys make-up counter. My resistance was slackened and – well, I can be very susceptible to the right pitch. And – let me put it to you this way – this was a pitch I hadn’t heard before. Frankly, this was a kind of fragrance I hadn’t experienced before – mostly because, whether awol (and Artillery) readers realize it or not, the world of perfume and fragrance has changed over the last few years. You’d have to be hiding down a black hole somewhere not to be aware of the extent to which the world of commercial and designer fragrance has exploded over the last 20 years or so. Sometimes it seems as if you can’t open a fashion or style magazine or even The New York Times Style pages without seeing some new fragrance – frequently not much less ephemeral than the celebrity whose face might be advertising it. Once upon a time, most any fragrance (obviously with a few exceptions) would have been composed predominantly of certain floral, non-floral (or musk, mineral, amber), spice, fruit or citrus essences with a small number or even a single essence dominating the scent. (E.g., the dominant note of Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris is rose.) However complex the scent (and obviously something like Chanel No. 5 is pretty complex), it presented a kind of single dominant olfactory harmonic. But as every designer and finally seemingly every celebrity began get into the scent racket, this inevitably had to change. The world of fragrance and perfume was suddenly wide open. In recent years, people have been drawn in any number of directions, by any number of impulses, where scent is concerned. Some of us (that would include myself) tend to be drawn back to basics (I love some of the straight floral and fruit essences you find at places like Santa Maria Novella, for example). And others are looking for something altogether different.

Just how different I was about to find out. But you’re going to have to wait just a bit more to hear exactly what I found, because once again, I’m off to another event; and if I don’t post this now (as I’ve been trying to over the last three days), I don’t think it’s ever going to go up. So excuse this lengthy preamble (I’m on deadline anyway) – and I’ll try to get back to this before the day is out.

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