Bruno Fazzolari makes paintings, perfume, sculptures, photographs and sometimes writes. He is represented by Anglim Gilbert Gallery, San Francisco. He has also shown with Feature, Inc., New York; Gallery 16 and [2nd floor projects]. His work has been widely reviewed; and has been included in shows at the M.H. de Young Museum (SF) and the Katonah Museum of Art (NY); and is in the collection of the Berkeley Art Museum. He was an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts and a finalist for SFMOMA’s SECA award. His fragrances have won numerous international awards including four stars from perfume critic, Luca Turin. He operates an artisanal fragrance business in parallel with his studio practice and divides his time between his studios in San Francisco, California and France's Loire Valley.
Bruno Fazzolari Scents was created to make his perfumes available outside the exclusive gallery setting and to reach the lively and very engaged audience of international fragrance fans. All scents are hand-crafted in small batches in the studio.
The following is excerpted from separate interviews with Brian Pera and CaFleureBon.
Where do you work on scents? Can you describe the place? Ideal? Not so ideal?
My studio occupies several rooms in a residential Victorian building that’s over 100 years old. One room is for painting, one for drawing and one is for fragrance. Most Victorians have a “fainting room,” a tiny, street-side room on the second floor where (so the story goes) women would pause to rest after climbing the stairs in tight corsets. That’s where I work on scents. My perfumer’s organ is very DIY, I made it with the pink foam I’ve used as armatures for my sculpture. It may not be mahogany, but it’s pretty close to ideal.
Do you really make all the perfume yourself?
"Artisanal" is an over-used word these days, but this is a truly artisanal practice. The perfumes are hand-blended and bottled in my studio in very small batches. I do all the blending myself, though I sometimes get help with bottling and labeling. I work hard to source rare, top-quality raw materials and and to connect with their sources. I feel a strong connection between the materials of painting, which is all about fine pigments, and the materials of perfume.
How did you find your way to perfume from painting? What sort of training do you have?
I'm entirely self-taught. I have always had a very vivid sense of smell and have long collected perfumes. Like many artists, I like to pick up new skills as part of a broader investigation. I first began experimenting with making my own scents around 2001. It was connected to the art I did around food—taste and smell are closely related. At first, it was a curiosity, but by degrees, it became a sort of madness with hundreds of small bottles creating a whole new type of chaos in my studio. For awhile, I was a little embarrassed by it and actually tried to keep it secret when I had studio visits. At once point, one of my gallerists came to visit and asked, "So, what's all that...?" I finally had to admit that I had become a perfumer. In 2010 I showed paintings with a perfume for the first time in Mirror 5 with Jancar Jones Gallery.
Does art, music or scent inform your creative process?
Scents evoke colors for me—it’s a type of synesthesia. I know that many musicians have it with music. In my process I don’t regard visual art and scent art as separate—it's more a continuum of sensations. When I develop a body of work I’m following a “scent trail” in my mind that’s very specific. It might be the sensory response I’m having to the black ink I've been using for 20 years, or a more methodical series of visual responses to rose oil. I then develop the perfume and visual elements simultaneously—each informs the other. Paintings will clarify my intentions for the scent; the scent leads me towards colors for the paintings.
Why release a poster/print with the scent? Can you tell me a little about how those ideas evolved alongside each other?
I’m usually developing a visual element and a perfume at the same time—it’s an integral part of how I work. One of the things I love about perfume is how, in spite of being a luxury item, it's a luxury that many people choose to afford. More people can buy my perfumes than my paintings—and here's the thing: they still own the "original artwork." I love that. With the poster, I was hoping to offer some of the same accessibility.
I’m very inspired by the engagement of the perfume community. Blogs like the anonymous writer at ScentHurdle like or Gaia Fishler's the Non-Blonde are part of a wide appreciation for the entire world of perfume—not just the scents, but the whole culture and history of fragrance: visual, material and social. I hope to contribute something to that dialogue.