Smell Me: Artist Turns Bodily Smells into Art

by Amy Bucknam


If you could have your bodily aromas handed to you in a vial, or even in the form of a scented candle, would you want it?  Martynka Wawrzyniak, a mixed-media and performance artist known for her unique use of unusual substances in her art, decided to discover her “essence,” and cultivated it into tangible objects, as well as an art installation. 

Wawrzyniak spent a year working on a project in which she acted as both an investigator and subject, exploring her own biological essence, and capturing it for her latest solo exhibition, Smell Me, opening in New York City on Saturday, October 20.

Under the guidance of Professor Donna McGregor, a research team of Hunter College chemistry students worked with Wawrzyniak in conducting multiple experiments to collect “aromatic” elements from the artist’s body.  The artist underwent various rigorous procedures to extract the concentrated essence of Wawrzyniak’s hair, sweat, and tears, in order to create a smell-based self-portrait, intended to communicate with the audience without visuals.



“In today’s society we do everything we can to mask the natural scent of our bodies, thus forgoing an ancient form of animal communication. I wanted to isolate these primal human essences and deliver them in an environment devoid of other sensual distractions,” said Wawrzyniak. “The piece represents the true essence of a woman – free of visual prejudice.”

In designing the installation, Wawrzyniak worked with renowned professional perfumer Yann Vasnier of Givaudan to fully immerse the space with the scent of the artist’s bodily aromas.  Scent director Dawn Goldworm of 12.29 diffused the essences into aromas.  To get the full effect of the installation, visitors will enter a specially designed scent chamber in which the aromas will be released.



Wawrzyniak’s original organic essences will be displayed in limited edition tear-shaped chemistry vials, and as three candles, which are made of the actual paraffin that was scraped off her body, then melted into the 250 mL chemistry beakers. 

If you’re in the NYC area and want to check out the exhibit, it runs from October 20 to November 18 at Envoy Enterprises at 87 Rivingston Street in Manhattan.



Images via Envoy Enterprise.

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