Archive for the ‘Art Tickles’ Category

Olfactory Musings: A Scents Memory Piece

June 25th, 2015

One year ago today, I posted a question to my Facebook page…


Many of my friends generously posted their responses. Memorable scents accompanied by touching, lovely, sad, angry, and beautiful stories. I pieced together a story of my own experiences crafted from their words. I tried to include every single one to create this bit of nose prose. I know, I missed Mossman Action Figure, cabin, and eucalyptus! Here is a visual representation of the scents I received. The large bulbs are the ones mentioned repeatedly.


This whole thing became a bit more precious than I usually like to go but, such is the way with memories and nostalgia. And, like with most art exercises, there is always room for improvement… particularly in my pronunciations of Malacca and waft … but I’d love for you to take a listen! Light a favorite candle or hold something fragrant under your nose,

What I hope to happen, even more than you hearing my story, is for us to share a reflective olfactory moment.

Play it in the background while you are working, don’t even pay attention, and maybe a word will jump out. Perhaps you will smell it, or at least think of a time you had with a Mossman Action Figure (boom, got it) or mulch.

In doing research for some other art and olfaction ideas, I ran across this olfactory artist, Brian Goeltzenleuchter! He is part of a similar (unrelated) project here: Olfactory Memoirs. I recently got to meet up with Brian in San Diego and it was a goshdamned treat. Can’t wait to see/smell more of his work.

If you’re interested in the words, here is V1 of the Script. This first iteration of the performance was for a really cool comedy festival in Chicago, A Jangleheart Circus, and for the show “One Item” in particular.


At the beginning of piece, pass out jars of lavender, boxes of crayons, an old book, Old Spice deodorant, Market Spice tea, rubber bands, etc. Audience is asked to sniff the jars throughout the show.


I think of life’s timeline in places because it’s easier to remember landmarks than dates. Brains never remember it all quite right. Except for smell. Scent is immediate, hardly anything to decipher. Scent is shit, it’s puppy paws, it’s mom and fresh tortillas. Like pinto beans in a pressure cooker, memories cook fast. The olfactory system swirls with the limbic system, clinging to the amygdala. Making close to indelible connections with memory. Blasts of old cologne (Malibu Musk, Cool Water, Electric Youth) like hippocampal stains, takes us there. Takes me back. A place I can barely remember, yet all of a sudden I am there.

So for a moment, lets concentrate on that sense that transcends space and time and places you in memory, not just reverie but exactly. I will speak to you in smells. I didn’t create an odorama or craft you each a perfume, but I did take words from my friends and a few olfactory aids. From a casual survey on Facebook, “hey friends, question for you. what is a smell/scent (good or bad) that you have a specific memory or memories linked to”?  I took my friends words and put them into a story about where I’ve called home. A nose prose using these suggested scents to build a story that includes yours. I hope it titillates your nosebuds, conjures memories and places you someplace else for even a second.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “MANKATO, MN” and prop it against the open lid.

MANKATO, MN: I trampled through lilies of the valley to build fleeting lilac forts with cabbage patch dolls. Wet dog and rain wet grass, set on a palette of soybean factory. I’m from southern MN. With winters so cold the air smells like ozone. But Summertime’s new asphalt and honeysuckle thunderstorms were hot. Air conditioners and mowers drone through the humidity. Rain on hot gravel is different than rain on hot tar or grass. Summer camp’s emotional fireworks while listening to fresh water lap over lake algae. Loves Skin so soft to keep away the bugs. Summer days are Coppertone, coconut sunscreen and fried doughnuts. A boat motor with diesel gas for sailing in WI.

There was making hay bale furniture with my cousin above cow manure after painting mildew portraits on a concrete wall in Grandma’s basement. Ponds cold cream kept her from cracking. That house is a place that no longer exists because we had to sell the farm. Pig shit. I will never sneak through what felt like the inside of a giant old piano again, to discover dead cats and renovated school buses. Because we all need bacon! Its delicious.  Here’s an oxy moron. Outhouse air freshener. Plenty of bugspray. I never knew the smell of crop dusting pesticides but I did know grandpa’s pipe tobacco.

The first blast of a furnace. Heated up dust so cozy it cheers for the Vikings with dad next to the fireplace. He was never an old spice guy, he uses some other shaving cream in a mug with a brush. Its now fall, fresh cut grass and musky sweet cornfields have given way to dorm rooms and cafeteria food the concession stand is selling popcorn, wood is burning, and there is a brand new box of crayons. How confident do you feel? Pencil lead or pen ink? Definitely Dr Pepper Lip Smackers. As we get up for our chocolate milk, pencil shavings drop like sawdust on the fresh floorwax.

Lets get to the preteen, pre-deodorant times. Cotton shirts washed in tide sparking a clean libido. A dash of Polo, Juba Oil from the body shop… some Jergens. I hear that’s a thing. Incense to cover cigarette smoke. Sniffing out identities in closets and the chapel of Bethlehem Lutheran Church. So many White Shoulders. I took a French Class the year John died from the meningitis outbreak. I remembered watching him skate, the ice rinks and hockey gear.

Lets move on.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “NEW YORK FUCKING CITY” and prop it against the open lid.

NEW YORK CITY: The subway body odor of 9 million strangers. Urine. White Castle. Hot trash like a red rubber dodgeball. The beginnings of my stale bar experiences spilling onto the sidewalks. Fresh bread from the Italian bakery, would become toasts at the liquor store. 5am stumbling under bridges. A man from Spain by way of Nantucket, condoms because I am afraid of disposable diapers. It was a circus composed of the sweaty unwashed suits from a gypsy punk marching band and it was awesome. I ate delicious lotus flower cakes while barking, “do you like comedy?”  There is one stench that I hope to never smell again, the burnt electrics of the weeks following Sept 11th. The haze of fear and unheard protests to a war in Iraq over burnt ass oil. A ceiling of drywall painted blue to remind me of Peru.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “SEATTLE” and prop it against the open lid.

SEATTLE: A decade of urban stimulation and I needed nature. So I moved to Seattle. Intoxicating rosemary landscapes. The coffee. The breeze was ocean scented and laced with evergreen. I worked at the Pike Place Market lavender shop, The fish guys tossed salmon past leather belts to mingle with piroshkys, peppermint essential oil, creosote and Lazlo’s booze. With a moldy beard dripping with Vino Verite. He pulled cards from his jacket from a girlfriend in the middle of the country and told me how he ran here from Hungary. Market Spice tea shared with Phan who made me origami Snowflakes, took me to Starbucks on my birthday. We’d meet for buffet lunches and he told me about Vietnam.

Moving on.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “CHICAGO” and prop it against the open lid.

CHICAGO: We drank campfire in a glass, Laphroiag in the mountains of North Carolina and I was hooked. Seemed too luxurious but hopeful and rich like mulch.  So I came to Chicago where I lived with husband future. He is nostalgic like a Panini Sticker with a heart as big, beautiful and complicated as Wyoming. His mother hates Asiago cheese. There is magic incorporated into hospital visits. And conversely, medical tape in theatre productions. But for all the luck and success for some reason I can’t shake the mothballs where I thought my life would be. I let familiar smells and distant identities form a circle. The mist of early morning Midwestern summer felt heavy defeated, back home in a tail between legs sort of way. Uncle Fun & Blommers Chocolate a welcome waft on my way to the burn of a backstage power saw but I haven’t really seen Idaho, Horthorpe Hall or Malacca. I didn’t even get to Ocean City Maryland! I let the economy throw me. A Gorse flower blossom surrounded by photosynthetic thorns, I don’t want to be that dependent on my thorns. I’m not done for god sakes, I just got scared of being old, of making a commitment. The inland water spray of lakeshore drive is not the enemy. But a lake has very different conversations than an ocean.

Out of an old suitcase, I pull out a handmade sign that reads “LOS ANGELES” and prop it against the open lid.

So together we’ll head west again, to desert sage and yellow jasmine. To meet back up with old NYC and their new super elastic bubble plastic lives. Crystal Ball tell me about whale watching, and this year’s Christmas Calamari, reminiscing about the Jersey Shore and sharing a violet candy. Maybe I’ll go vegan, cucumber melon, or live in an apartment building with a boxwood topiary. I’ll soak in chlorine, get a real tan and a real fake Christmas tree.

Smell ya later.


Goodnight, #CephalopodWeek

June 29th, 2014

Anyone know what a group of octopuses is called, a la “murder of crows” or “labor of moles”?

Almost missed it today but, #CephalopodWeek

June 27th, 2014


Oh man, was so busy performing at Adler and enjoying the company of friends in the out of doors that I almost missed a post. But I do like this excuse for consistency so, here is an OctoDoodle pic and video… mixologist

Cuttlefish, a Ditty, and a Doodle

June 26th, 2014

This is a short video that my fiancé took at Disneyworld of some cuttlefish.
Yes, it was at Disney. Yes, they were raised in captivity since they were eggs. But they are still amazing. AMAZING! I recorded a little saw ditty to accompany the video, not as amazing but I’m trying to just do, y’know.

And here’s another Octo-Doodle, print out and draw in your own face! Or keep it creepy.

No Face Big Mouth

No Face Big Mouth

OctoDoodle 2 #CephalopodWeek

June 25th, 2014

I thought this was a dancer/entertainer but maybe also a really fun professor?



You know what? I’m having a great time on Vine with these.

In Honor of #CephalopodWeek – Doodles, One a Day

June 24th, 2014

This one was the next up…



I was in a mood. Yikes. I promise to post cute cuttlefish video soon!

Another Book That I Liked. Epileptic.

June 19th, 2014

Epileptic Cover

Epileptic is a beautifully rich graphic novel that probably everyone has already heard about, except me. I didn’t know anything about it until my boyfriend pointed it out on a shelf at the bookstore. It seemed right up my alley, theme and content wise. So, in a caffeinated bout of spending mania, I grabbed it.

Let’s just say, it was so much more than I expected. After I finished, I wanted to sit there holding it. Feeling its weight like an obvious metaphor.  The book that this man (and his family) created is dark, heady, and self-aware in the most engaging ways. It follows the family by way of the narrator/author/artist, through a life of dealing with his brother’s severe epilepsy.  It was so intimate and lovely, without being overly sweet or precious. Dare I say, it was just so, French.

The emotional pace of the storytelling was even, not manipulative or even cathartic really, but always tumbling along with the images. Every once and a while a panel would be so right that I would actually have to stop and stay on it. Like holding my breath. I can’t help but think they were intended for exactly that purpose, but that also other people might have stopped at different panels. You know that super art feeling of like, that is exactly right! That is EXACTLY RIGHT! But then you have your friend look at it and they are like “That’s nice. Oooh, look over there!”

A few seemingly random themes are only random at first because they are so specific to the family in the book. They all go together because it is a real life. Even if I wasn’t sure how exactly one would subject would relate to the other, I knew it would. And it was nice to be led deeply down one path to discover another.

The drawings, to the non art student eye, were an almost wood block or etching style, black and white, clean lines, folk art yet still in the cartoon realm. The perfectly placed monsters of disease, death and life’s nagging truths are embraced as friends, beautiful scary friends. There is so much to look at but I never felt like I lost the story. I would love to see a puppet theatre production of this book.

Epileptic is full of facts although not brain science, or epilepsy research, which is sort of what I wanted. If I had done a bit more research before I started, the French title may have changed my original preconceived notions “L’Ascension du haut mal (“The Rise of the High Evil”). But, I did not miss the hard science because everything was so well done. So what if it wasn’t what I expected? It was something profoundly moving. It was something really fucking great.

I will give it a Benedict Cumberbatch rating. It was prettier than me, smarter than me, and I’d like to look at it over and over again.

Coursera Class and a Musical Shout Out

June 16th, 2014

I just wanted to quickly update and say that I have finished my first Coursera course. Hooray! It was called The Brain and Space and I highly recommend it if you’d like to learn more about how our brains take cues from our bodies and then use that information. The professor was engaging, clear, and even plays the banjo. My musical saw playing self felt a kindred spirit. Maybe there’s a new sub genre in there, Neuro Folk. I’d be down.  Since I’m talking about it, you can hear some of my saw playing with my band, Eileen. We are a murder ballad folk duo. I guess I like sub genres.


photo credit: Logan Futej

More OctoDoodles

May 18th, 2014

William. Ella. Frank. Gail.
octopus_06 octopus_05 octopus_04octopus_07

I Read Neurocomic and I Liked It

April 28th, 2014

Neurocomic by Dr Hana Ros and Dr Matteo Farinella

This afternoon I was finally able to sit-down with Neurocomic. Here are some of my thoughts.

They had me at Neurocomic and kept me by releasing the giant squid kraken. This book was super fun. Wish I could’ve had it during my Human Brain class. It certainly would have helped to sink in some of the beginner concepts by visualizing facts in a different way. Coming at a topic from different angles really makes the connections stronger for me. Sometimes I need concepts drilled into my thick skull from a few different drills, and I’m ok with that. I dunno. Maybe I just like pretty pictures.

Speaking of pretty, the cover is beautiful. It is sturdy, intelligent, textured… feels classy and silly at the same time. I really couldn’t wait to open it. The art is clear enough to get facts across but also kind of trashy and bulbous. It puts me in a headspace of seeing Crumb or Gilliam. Like, something is a little off and I’m totally into it. I loved all the monsters and trippy creatures. Some visual wordplay was very satisfying to see in pictures. The hippocampus archivist Seahorse was one of my faves. Possible tattoo material.

The read was like a short trip with a river otter. My mind was doing flips and swimming along with the book. Gurgling along with facts and the layers of POV. The whole story felt like tumbling folds, continually morphing sulcri and gyri. This allowed me to feel ungrounded and I appreciated that. Lots of room for open questions yet, all was explained in a way that didn’t ruin those questions. The book itself was a reflection of what I was thinking and also making those thinks happen. WOAH. Perspective was playfully and cleverly layered, better so than I might be explaining. Just read it.

When I thought I had a complaint there seemed to be a great reason as to why the thing causing argument was there. Like some part of my brain was saying “that’s the whole point, man.” For example, I wanted the woman to be the main character you follow, but in the end it is savvier that she isn’t. Although, the traveller could’ve been a lady, that is some severe nitpicking though.  The statement “I’m afraid you won’t find many girls around here, boy” was hard to swallow. But again, an honest interpretation of the facts she presents and science histories in general. Maybe it was even a call for women to get into it. It being neuroscience.

Overall hooray for the art science hybrid! Brain and eye candy. But also like, healthy science snack. Delicious and satisfying with tons of layers to chew on. I would like more please. A series with The Neurotransmitters seems so doable!

Go here for more info:
Or here to just go ahead and buy it: