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“Scent & Symbolism,” “Objets de Mémoire” at the Dixon

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A pair of complementary exhibits at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens converge in the text accompanying Jules Joseph Lefebvre's 1874 painting Odalisque. Lefebvre's rosy female nude is painted from behind and reclining near a brazier smoking with incense. From the commentary: "Perhaps more than the other senses the ability to smell has the capacity to unlock memories, fuel reveries, or ignite fantasies so alive as to produce states of mild detachment or even disassociation." It's an idea woven throughout "Scent and Symbolism," an exhibit of painting and perfume bottle masterpieces that explores the relationship between fragrance and Western art traditions. Coaxing memories is also the point of Jason Miller's photography on canvas exhibit, "Objets de Mémoire."

Each of Miller's colorful, up-close objects is accompanied by a story. The stale, cellophane-wrapped caramel candy comes with memories of going to church with family members and friends who always had some of these sweet treats in their coat pockets. It's an image and situation so familiar to anybody who grew up in church, it's almost impossible to see without smelling browned sugar, pocket lint, and lipstick. The headless, naked, smouldering picture of an Arnold Schwarzenegger Commando action figure has a similarly adolescent vibe but accompanied by a more toxic range of sense memories.

Work by Jason Miller
  • Work by Jason Miller

Miller's exhibit is as personal as a diary excerpt, but pictures of glass owls, crystal globes, holographic castles, and even a colorful, collapsible cup pair nicely with the painted porcelain and cut crystal perfume decanters in neighboring galleries.

Grownups will also enjoy the kid's room and an interactive display all about fragrance mixing and how perfumers assemble bass, middle, and top notes. A garden map of floral plantings give "Scent and Symbolism"'s aroma-inspired artwork an added extra dimension.

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