Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hope through Carnations

If Shepard Fairey would like to donate his talents toward providing better PR for carnations, I would put him in touch immediately with Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, perhaps America’s most visually minded perfumer. Because it seems that they share an aesthetic. Her Oeillets Rouges are as high-contrast red as Red Square – all red cheeks, lips and hair flaming against a blue-black sky.

Let’s face it, despite being assigned a high place in Islamic art and culture, carnations aren’t exactly top-shelf in the West. In some societies, they’re even considered bad luck. (No surprise that when Coty released Oeillet de France in 1923, it was solely for export to the U.S.A.) Be that as it may, carnation soliflores are experiencing something of a mini-renaissance in Western perfumery. Witness two spectacular JAR perfumes, Golconda and Diamond Water and a Prada exclusive, not to mention Comme des Garçons Series 2 Red: Carnation. Hurwitz’s eau de parfum rests with some very fine company, indeed.

Hurwitz, whose Parfums des Beaux Art label hails from none other than Boulder, CO, is a perfumer whose tastes run to the classical but not the unadventurous. As Chandler Burr noted in a recent review, “It is, oddly, in the abstracts [Viridian, Quinacridone Violet, Celadon] that Spencer Hurwitz goes from good to much better.” Having tested several other of her soliflores, I would have to agree; but Oeillets Rouges, not a new scent of hers by any means, approaches abstraction in its stunning approximation of red. She should have named it Technicolor Red. It pops and sputters and sparks with pepper and spice and myrrh, then pirouettes to a rest like Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes.

Contra the maximalist approach of niche perfumer Neil Morris, whose recent perfume for the Japanese department store Takashimaya could stun a New York subway car into submission, the perfumes of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz betray a quiet American charm, and occasion in this reviewer the realization that, west of the Mississippi, still waters still do run deep.

Image credit: Josef Albers, Homage to the Square (Red), 1968. Norton-Simon Collection, Pasadena


Blogger Flora said...

Thanks for putting the spotlight on one of my favorites - Oeillets Rouges is a sexy and very well made carnation scent. I can't afford Golconda, but this I can do, and I think I like it just as much!

April 11, 2009 at 11:26 PM  

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