October 25, 2013
Maria Candida Gentile is a perfumer based in Italy who is part of a growing cadre of exciting and innovative independent creators changing the face of niche perfumery on the international scene. Launched in 2009, Gentile’s line of perfumes are exquisite meditations on our relationship with art and nature. Her specific selection of sourced materials and high concentration of natural ingredients in her perfumes highlight the need for respect for our environment as well as our bodies. As she states: “Nature is what inspires us, keeps us alive. True luxury is about staying connected with nature.”
Maria Candida Gentile
This past summer, Maria Candida Gentile took her scent work outside of the perfume bottle and into the spaces of contemporary art when she collaborated with artist Luca Vitone at the Venice Biennale. Vitone was invited to show at the Pavilion in a group exhibition called “Vice Versa,” curated by Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, alongside works of Luigi Ghirri, a photographer who passed away in 1992 leaving behind one of the most important bodies of photography documenting the subject of the Italian landscape and its transformation from the 1970’s to the 1990’s. Instead of making other images or objects to compete with the power of Ghirri’s works, Vitone decided to create an olfactory sculpture that would converse directly with the photography.
On view at the Italian Pavilion in the famed Arsenale, the work is titled “Per L’Éternità (For Eternity)” and is an “achromatic and mono-olfactory sculpture” created to generate a discussion around the controversial and toxic building material, asbestos, whose Italian commercial brand name, “Eternit,” is also the Italian word for eternity. Vitone invited Gentile to visit Italian families devastated by the respiratory illnesses caused by inhalation of asbestos, and it is from that very moving experience that the two decided to use rhubarb as the singular note of a fragrance that wafts throughout the exhibition site and into the surrounding areas.
In a brief Skype conversation with Gentile, she explained the choice of rhubarb: “I decided to reproduce the idea of death from asbestos and the feeling around it. I chose rhubarb as a raw material because it represents the fresh smell of tears. When you cry and tears go in your mouth, they have a taste. That’s why I chose a rhubarb–because it’s bitter, pungent, and salty.”
Vitone and Gentile use the medium of smell to address larger issues of the contemporary politics of the environment in Italy. By disseminating a scent throughout the gallery featuring the groundbreaking landscapes of Luigi Ghirri, their work at the Biennale uses the powerful medium of art to underscore their belief in the basic human right of all people to access to clean and safe air to breathe.
–Katherine Chan aka Mad Perfumista , Special Contributor