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Nose Your Senses: VSU’s Fine Arts Gallery opens a fragrant new exhibit

Photo Courtesy: Kyle Dawson/THE SPECTATOR

Written by Pam Agedah, Staff Writer

“Watch Your Step” indicates a warning, a cautionary title and “Fragrant Installation” is because the piece was built on site using fragrant spices,” said Stephen Watson, the artist who created the works on display in the newest exhibit at VSU’s Fine Arts building.

The title speaks to the concept behind his art.

This is Watson’s first spice art gallery show this year and his second year displaying spice art since beginning the project. Watson has done six spice art gallery shows since beginning of last year.

Watson is an art instructor with the University of Alabama and Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

“The idea for the spice art exhibit came from a church project I was doing,” said Watson. “I used to be a sculptor, I made art relevant to the idea and I wanted to do a piece that had a lingering effect on the people, to leave people changed.”

The project originally started at a church. Watson wanted to create a sweet smell that allows the church congregation to connect and gather together so he created checkered spice art on the steps outside of his church in Alabama.

In doing so, he also wanted the piece to be interruptive, to make people stop and wonder.

“Instead of just engaging visually, I wanted them to engage with their sense of smell also,” Watson said.

Watson wanted his audience to use more than one sense when observing his art.

“Part of the reason why I wanted others to experience another sense was because I see myself as emotionally inept,” he said. “I make art to feel.”

The exhibit was created with the help of a dozen Valdosta student volunteers and took about 12 hours and was made of 20 lbs. of spices, ranging from turmeric to spices like rosemary powder.

“I based the spices I picked based on texture, color and smell. The work was designed to be decorative, alluring, aroma pleasing and unusual,” Watson said.

The art pieces are not glued down to the floor, so it could be easily destroyed by someone touching it or kicking it, hence the title “Watch Your Step.”

“Gluing the pieces down would feel like taxidermy. The project feels like a living organism because it can be destroyed. It would be like a stuffed deer on a wall, but you always wonder what it was like alive,” Watson said.

Watson wanted the exhibit to be disruptive and for people to leave their mark.

“We are all shaping every space we inhabit,” he said.

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