Modern Mating – The Institute for Art and Olfaction

Modern Mating 
by Susan Barbour (with Elise Wells)
Residency: May 15- June 15, 2017


The Institute for Art and Olfaction is pleased to host poet, scholar, wine expert, and olfactory artist Susan Barbour for a one-month residency around her project ‘Modern Mating’. Susan will also be using her time at the IAO for practice-based research related to an ongoing non-fiction writing project.



While in residence at IAO, Susan Barbour will be developing scents for “Modern Mating,” a pheromone installation she will create with artist Elise Wells.

This piece offers an interactive olfactory experience that explores the role of scent in human seduction, allowing visitors to experience natural pheromones alongside synthetic ones—all in a visually stimulating environment that showcases the barrage of information found in the dating and donor profiles confronting the twenty-first century person seeking a romantic or biological mate.

This intimate, subjective smelling encounter contrasts with the objective data encounter, creating a provocative experience that highlights the paradoxes of modern mating.

During her time at The Institute for Art and Olfaction, Susan will also be refining formulas for her newly launched fragrance project POESIS, a series of artisanal scents inspired by poetry, wine, language, music, and art.

These two projects will also serve as practice-based research for her ongoing nonfiction study Redolence: The Poetics of Smell.



susanSusan Barbour is a poet, scholar, wine expert, and olfactory artist. She earned a B.A. from Dartmouth, an M.A. in The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, and a D. Phil. in English Literature from Oxford, where she was a Clarendon Scholar and The Somerville College Graduate Scholar in the Humanities. She also holds the Level 4 Diploma from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and is a certified French Wine Scholar.

Susan’s poetry and essays have appeared in literary magazines including The Paris Review, Catapult, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Five Dials, and Oxford Poetry, and her scholarship has been published in academic journals such as Textual Practice, Transatlantica, and The Oxford Review of English Studies. She also recently completed an autobiographical novel, American Dreamer: A Poet’s Story of Wall Street, as well as a monograph on the art and poetry of Susan Howe.

While teaching for the French Embassy in 2005, Susan toured France’s winemaking regions and decided to pursue advanced training in oenology. In addition to extensive travel throughout the wine regions of France, Italy, Spain, and North America, she has been an intern at Château Clôs Fourtet in Saint Émilion, sold wine at New York’s famed Sherry-Lehmann, led Champagne tastings aboard cruises on the Seine, and served as a teaching assistant at the International Wine Center in New York. Dubbed “The Wine Poet of Paris” by Lonely Planet, she is known for dynamic tasting events in which she guides audiences in appreciating the vibrant language and poetic imagery of wine. Training her nose for blind-tasting exams fueled an ongoing interest in the language we use to describe smell—the subject of her current book-in-progress—and also inspired her to discover the art of perfumery at the IAO where she is a regular student and practitioner.

Susan has been the recipient of fellowships from The James B. Reynolds Foundation, The Rothermere American Studies Institute, The Huntington Library, The Bogliasco Foundation, The Beinecke Library at Yale, The Jentel Artist Residency, and The Dora Maar House/Brown Foundation. She has lectured at Johns Hopkins, École Polytechnique, and Merton College, Oxford and has held research positions at Columbia University and Caltech. She is currently based in Los Angeles where she works as a freelance writer, wine educator, and perfumer.