Tucked away in a discreet Brooklyn studio is Goldieland. Goldie is an artist, glass-blower, sculptor, and feminist. Her works have been exhibited in various parts of Europe, Asia and the United States. Born in the Philippines, she moved to the US for her MFA degree in Glass in Rhode Island. Her artistic themes revolve around women, Philippine culture, politics, sensuality, sexuality, ecofeminism and immigration. They are inspired by nature, personal accounts, and more particularly, the Woman. “My work is sensual and erotic, based on intuition and carnal knowledge.” Inspired by the concept of the divine feminine, she uses her art to express the sides of women society has tried to oppress. Schwartz and Cook acknowledge that women have been excluded from society’s memory tools.¹ Casswell also asserts, “I might go further to say that just as patriarchy required women to be subservient, invisible handmaidens to male power, historians and other users of archives require archivists to be neutral, invisible, silent handmaidens of historical research.”² Artists, like archivists, are also historians. Goldie hopes to remedy the exclusion by representing women through her art.
She uses glass, scent, and sound installations as mediums to tell stories of history. She describes glass blowing as “immersive” because it demands traditional and culturally deep-rooted, memory-based movements. The artist must use movements to tune-in with the alchemical transformation of glass into a sculpture. While scent, she claims, awakens the “feeling” body stored in our memories. It is sentimental as well as significant. Goldie is what Dabello would refer to as a heritage practitioner, whose purpose is to “communicate cultural imperatives while allowing for the proves of signification to occur, and social significance to be established.” ³ Significance, claims Dabello, stems from what society deems important that is assimilated into traditions that shape a society’s memory. Maurice Halbwachs confirms this when he wrote that, “No memory is possible outside frameworks used by people living in society to determine and retrieve their recollections.” ¹
Goldie tells me “When we are faced with loss or devastation, the most precious things we have are our memories.” She first discovered the power of smell in 2009 when her village in the Philippines was almost completely destroyed by typhoon Yolanda. During the aftermath, the smells and tastes of the places she loved still remained fresh in her memory. Goldie believes that smells form a significant part of our cultural heritage because they are stored in our collective memory. She references Dr. Devon E. Hinton’s study of the relation between smell and loss. Scent triggers the limbic system which consequently triggers memories that manifest through emotions. He had documented refugees experiencing panic attacks triggered by the smell of smoke. Trying to heal from her own loss from the typhoon, she delved into the idea of using scent as a medium of expression. Goldie, just like an archivist, taps into her memories, extracts stored information, and presents them in a way of “shared cultural understanding.” ¹
Goldie shares her studio with other budding artists. A large shelf displays her glass sculptures, most are representations the feminine figure and the female genitalia. Beside her shelf is an impressive collection of books about smells, emotions, scents, aromatherapy and aromacology. Above the books are blue bottles filled with her recent scent creations. Each are named after a specific goddess. She let me smell each of them, explaining to me what their individual scents evoke. I gravitated towards one scent named “Helen” because smelling it made me feel incredibly good. Goldie explained that Helen is the goddess of the hunt, and the scent is a mix of Neroli and Cedarwood essences. Laughing at my bewildered face, she whipped out a book to show me what the oils represent. Neroli is derived from the Orange tree flower, and it was a popular scent during the ancient Egyptian times. It is supposed to ease stress, anxiety and fear with its calming aroma. Cedarwood relieves depression by providing comfort and emotional balance. She insisted I keep Helen as a souvenir.
When asked about her past exhibits, she exclaimed that one of her favorite exhibits is called Sonata-Ambient Scentscapes. It merges glass, scent and color into one unique musical performance. She had six scent “notes” paired with six different colors. The scent and color correlations were based on synesthesia, where scent and colors are closely associated with each other. These “notes,” played simultaneously, created a scent or unique perfume. She then collaborated with two musicians to play live music while her glass sculptures diffused the scents for every chord played. Her inspiration for this exhibit was Septimus Piesse’s book written in the 18th century. He wrote, “Scents, like sounds, appear to influence the olfactory nerve in certain definite degrees.”⁵ His concept is now more popularly referred to as “smound.”
She is currently working on a group exhibit that will feature iterations of her past Flower Dance- an installation piece using glass, flowers and scent. She explained that her glass sculptures will be mounted on walls to hold the flowers, each size representing the flower growth movements. She is in the process of creating the smells that will represent her chosen flower colors, namely red, blue and violet. Her exhibit will be featured together with other artists in the Overhang Gallery of Greenpoint, Brooklyn on the last weekend of April 2017.
When I asked her about her sources of inspiration, she referred again to loss- this time more in detail. She has suffered the loss of her community during the typhoon, loss of friends when they turned into guerillas to fight in the mountains of the Philippines, loss of love, but the most painful was the loss of self. She has actively recalled those painful memories through smells, in order to tell stories through her art. She understands that smell is subjective. She does not impose her scents on her viewers, because each smell gives each person a unique experience. Instead, she tries to represent her work in the most authentic way possible, by speaking her truth, in hopes that her viewers understand her stories.
¹ Schwartz, J. M., & Cook, T. (2002). Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic.
² Caswell, “The Archive’ is Not An Archives: Acknowledging the Intellectual Contributions of Archival Studies.” Reconstruction Vol. 16, No. 1.
³ Dalbello, Marija. (2009). “Digital Cultural Heritage: Concepts, Projects, and Emerging Constructions of Heritage.” Proceedings of the Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference, 25-30 May, 2009.
4 Goldieland. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.goldieland.com