If you’ve ever been transported to a different place and time by the mere whiff of a smoky campfire or a salty ocean breeze, you know how powerful our sense of smell is.
“Scent is an amazing time-traveling device,” says Joyce Lanigan, perfume designer and co-founder of the Saugerties-based fragrance company Raw Spirit. “It can add depth to our lives, instantly change our mood, and lay down memories deep in our brains,” she says.
Since 2015, Lanigan has specialized in transporting wearers of Raw Spirit’s cruelty-free, unisex eau de parfums to a variety of global destinations through the use of single-origin ingredients such as Australian sandalwood, Haitian vetiver, American oak, and even the essence of Indonesian pearls. Originally a collaboration with Australian photographer Russell James’ art project Nomad Two Worlds, Lanigan and James founded Raw Spirit as a way to provide economic opportunities to indigenous communities in Australia.
Just two years after Lanigan relocated to the Hudson Valley from Perth, the pandemic had all but closed off access to the kind of wanderlust-worthy world travel that gave her inspiration. So she began to think about how she could put her creative energies to work at home here in the region. Coupled with her need to communicate the experience of each of Raw Spirit’s scents in an entirely online environment, and her latest endeavor, Raw Spirit “Sense of Scent” collaboration, was born.
Earlier this year, Lanigan put the call out to artists all over the Hudson Valley with the challenge to create an original work of art based on one of Raw Spirit’s nine fragrances. “Lots of fragrances are inspired by movies or music, but we haven’t found any instances where a fragrance was the creative jumping-off point,” she says.
The final seven artists were sent the full collection to find inspiration for their work—from Wild Fire, the line’s original, rich Outback-inspired scent to the bright, citrusy Summer Rain, which evokes the Florida Everglades.
“The original concept of Raw Spirit was about that spark of inspiration that seems to come from another place,” says Lanigan. “We wanted the artists to explore their olfactive memory through our scents and use them as inspiration for their own beautiful works of art.”
The group of artists includes Kingston-based hybrid artist Anna-Stesia Saunders; Nanuet-based film composer Joe Chris; choreographer Anna Mayta of Hudson’s Mayta Fusion Dance Company; and visual artists Christina Brady of Spirit Keeper Studio in Saugerties, Lisa D’Amico, founder of The Bluefield Artists and the Rockland Arts Festival, and Alan M. Jacobson MD, whose expressionist pieces draw on his work as a psychotherapist and neuroscientist. Their creative process was documented by local videographer Devon Wood.