Each and everyone one of us is taken on a healing journey that encourages us to find the elements that would best resonate with our psyche. Goldie Poblador, is one such artist who has found healing in the work that she has chosen to create and share with all of us. Focusing on glass, Goldie mixes the art of scent and its properties to invigorate the senses of her audience. I decided to write to Goldie to ask her more about her work and the healing properties of scent when used in art. Here's where our conversation took us:
In our discussions, you have talked about the history of scent and it’s powerful healing effects, can you tell me a little bit about how you found yourself working with scent?
In 2009, [when Ondoy hit], we were affected. The rainwater rose above people’s homes. Trash collected in the trees. Everything changed in one instant. The landscape was replaced. I lived in one of the villages near the Marikina river. And what struck me the most was the memory of people carrying their most treasured belongings as they made their way to higher ground. Everything that was, it seemed, was lost, and I became greatly aware of the temporal state of life. After the typhoon, my most distinct memory was of the smells and tastes of a place I once knew. That was how I first got the idea to work with scent. I was missing the scent of how things were as triggered by how it smelled directly after. It was a mess.
“When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered...the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls...bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory” - Marcel Proust
What is it with the sense of smell and human memory?
These senses are often overlooked but are embedded in the region of our brain that relates to emotions and memory. This is why our degree of attraction to another human being relies on scent as well. Scent is how we first evolved into complex creatures, and traces of this are evident in our bodies. This is also why, that old shirt of someone you once loved can trigger a sense of longing even after the person has gone.
Why is scent important to you as a medium? It is so intangible.
Scent is ephemeral and deeply connected to the part of our brain that interprets emotions. The sense of smell is connected to the brain’s limbic system. The limbic system is the trigger for our memories and emotions. Sigmund Freud once said that wishes are immortal. In this respect, wishes and smells are the same. This is why it is important to me, since I believe that our emotions can teach us a lot. I am extremely influenced by the writing of Anais Nin. I'll leave you with this quote of hers, as she describes it best:
“The way we have come to protect ourselves is not to feel, which is a terrible danger because then we really become sub-human or non- human and are as far away from our real connection with other human beings as we can possibly be. So we have to fight these dangerous elements in technology which come with an expanded universe and the illusion the media give us of being in touch with everything simply because we see. You can only be in touch by feeling.”
—Anaïs Nin, A Woman Speaks: Lectures, Seminars and Interviews of Anaïs Nin, 1975
For me the return to scent is the return to feeling.
Why is scent important to healing the psyche?
It is very important! After the typhoon, I began to study the art of perfumery and create scents in my kitchen. Perfumery is the ultimate art of smell. It takes us beyond memory and emotion and into the spiritual. In its molecular form scent is ephemeral and alludes to the spirit through its quality of being invisible but undeniably present. It has a long tradition of healing the mind and body through the distillation of plants as they transform into different chemical and material states. The creation of a perfume is a kind of alchemy, as something becomes a more potent version of what it originally represented in nature. Scent has always been used by religions to allude to the spiritual, as characterized by ritual and often involving the burning of incense. Even the simple act of placing flowers on an altar is a metaphor of this. I think it has something to do with how scent triggers things that somehow seem greater than ourselves, and the incomprehensible.
In your work you have used the metaphor of flowers. Particularly, you have done projects with the Ylang Ylang – a native to the Philippines – why the Ylang Ylang?
My Aunt worked in the government and had a strong relationship with the case of the Ylang ylang being patented by a large company. She saw the work I was doing with scent and first brought it to my attention.
What is the history of the Ylang Ylang?
The myth of the ylang ylang best describes its history. I told it in the form of a poem in my thesis:
The Nectar of Beauty
They were a couple
They tended the gardens
And filled the entire village with
The scent of birth
The scent of rain after the storm
The most luscious flowers in the world
Try as they might
They could never bear a child
To the divine goddess of love
And she answered their prayers
Through the form of a beautiful girl
They named her
The nectar of beauty
But in order to have her they signed a deal with death
“You exist to raise only flowers
and not children
this is why your flowers are the root of human love.”
Blood was spilled and Ylang Ylang was born
On the condition that she may never touch a man
Love through her body
But when she blossomed
She was as beautiful as the goddess that bore her
A man saw her one day
Walking in the garden
“Oh gods of the earth
I have known no worldly pleasure than the sight
Of the divine feminine.”
He offered her flowers
As a sign of love
And when he reached out
To give her the flowers
Their fingers touched
And she disappeared
The next day nobody could find her
Instead they found
A new flower they had never seen before
Growing from the ground
And to this day this flower
Bears her name
The most potent aphrodisiac in the world
Why is it important to reclaim?
As Filipinos, it is important to claim rights to something that stems from our cultural traditions as well as our soil. Even as large companies benefit from this flower to date, I think it is important to acknowledge the wisdom of its origin.
What are the healing properties of the Ylang Ylang?
It is an effective mood enhancer and aphrodisiac. It is often thrown on the beds of newlyweds. It can act as an anti depressant as well.
What’s a good ritual to use when healing with the Ylang Ylang?
I would recommend diluting it in a carrier oil and using it after a shower. I would slowly massage it from the feet up to enhance your awareness of the body. It is also extremely sensual and is a great oil to use as a tool in seduction.
In an interview you did with Nu House, you said “I want to talk about the flower as a metaphor for ripeness or freshness. As women, we’re always expected to be these beautiful things, but flowers have a life span, they have a cycle, there are times they aren’t around and then they grow.” Please expound on this.
Women are like flowers, like in the myth. Flowers have a period when they are most ripe, and fresh. This I feel relates to how we are as women on a monthly basis and on a grander scale, in our lifetimes. It is similar to how they relate women to the moon, and how our monthly period is affected by our hormones. There are times when our bodies are set up for us to be the most fertile and times when we develop more acne and when we are lazier. I feel like society isn’t very accepting of these changes, and often we are expected to be perfect all the time but the truth is we all have our moments of being wild witches - bitchy and unapologetic. Like an over-ripe mango, I am delicate and sweet and unafraid to rot.
I like the word “cycle”, what kinds of cycles do women go through that you find are important to healing the psyche and the soul?
There are a lot but I always like to think about the time I became a woman. When I was twelve my family went to see “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli. I was so moved by the painting that I decided that this was what I wanted to do and a few days later I got my period for the first time. It was a sad moment for me but also an important part of letting go of the cycle of childhood. I am not a mother yet but I am certain that this phase can be an important part of a woman’s life.
As an artist, you have periods where you too need to disappear from creating and allow yourself to grow. What advice can you give to people who are in the process of manifesting their deepest desires?
Have the utmost faith, and learn to let go if you have to. Nobody will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. Be strong, and be honest with what you truly desire. Also, it is best to have people who are manifesting as well, and who believe in following the path of authenticity. Surround yourself with people who are doing the same and who are equally passionate and the road becomes easier and way more fun.
Goldie Poblador is a Filipina artist based in New York City. To learn more about the artist and her work, check out goldieland.com