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Paintings about the Sense of Smell

Sense of Smell Triptych.  Three 12" x 12" paintings on wood panels, 2001.  Private Collection.

Smelling is somewhat like seeing. The olfactory receptors capture scents much like the receptors of the eye capture photons of light. We have about 1000 different types of smell receptors, which stick to different shapes of scent molecules. A particular scent will stick to these receptors in a unique pattern. The scent may stick strongly to some receptors and weakly or not at all to others. The pattern of receptors that have absorbed the scent are registered in the glomeruli of the brain. Our brain learns to recognize different patterns of scent. This way, by the pattern of receptors which are activated, we know what an orange smells like, for example. We share the same arrangement of receptors in our olfactory tissue, and so have very similar experiences when we smell the same smells, such as oranges or gardenias.



Electron micrographs of olfactory neurons supplied by Dr. Richard Costanzo.

Solon information from: Scents of Time - Perfume from Ancient Egypt to the 21st Century.

"Morphology of the human olfactory epithelium." Morrison EE, Costanzo RM., J Comp Neurol. 1990 Jul 1;297(1):1-13.

Birth of Nefertem.  25" x 25", mixed media on paper, 2001. Collection of the Artist.


Birth of Nefertem, Egyptian god of fragrance, out of a Sea of Olfactory Neurons.

Olfactory Garden.  18" x 24", mixed media, 2001. Private Collection. 


A range of colors of supporting cells and orange smell (olfactory) receptors with green neurons as stems.

Blue and Orange Olfactory Garden.  18" x 24", mixed media, 2001.  $1600 framed plus shipping and taxes.  


Blue supporting cells and orange smell (olfactory) receptors.

18" x 24", mixed media, 2001.  Collection of the artist.


Blue supporting cells and orange smell (olfactory) receptors.

Red Olfactory Garden. 18" x 24", mixed media, 2001.  $1600 plus tax and shipping.  Red smell receptors on a grey bed of supporting cells.

Purple Olfactory Garden.  18" x 24", mixed media, 2001. Private Collection

 Orange smell receptors on a purple bed of supporting cells.

Woman in an Olfactory Garden. 24" x 28", mixed media, 2001. Private Collection.

The visual nature of smell was striking to me. The concept of patterns of smell, the beauty of aroma, the floral or ocean dwelling qualities of the receptors, all contributed to the paintings in this series.

Greek Passion for Perfume.  28" x 32", mixed media, 2001. Collection of the artist.

An Ancient Greek is carried away by the scent coming from a perfume vessel deep into a world of olfactory neurons. The ancient Greeks were passionate about perfumes and scented oils. The Greek addiction to perfume prompted Solon, a ruler in Athens 594 B.C., to create a law prohibiting the sale of perfume.

Mycenaean Scented Ritual.  20" x 24", mixed media, 2001. Private Collection.

These two Mycenaean women are engaged in their sage-scented ritual at the base of an olfactory neuron carved into the shape of a tree.

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