Drawing Machines: Colors in Captivity

Aroma diffusers have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’m someone who strives to create a peaceful oasis throughout my spaces, for example, my bedroom. In an effort to construct the calmest and most serene environment I can in my bedroom at home and school, I’ve turned to aroma diffusers to help me achieve just that. In a sense, diffusers have become an integral part of my daily routine, as well as the focal point of my conference project. 

The diffuser’s most basic function is to slowly release vapor, often a mixture of a scented essential oil and water, which then introduces a fragrance into the surrounding area. I wondered what would happen if I substituted the essential oil for food coloring. This curiosity was the stepping stone to my performative sculpture, which I’ve named Colors in Captivity. I wanted to create an experience–one that keeps my viewer engaged while the performance is happening, but also once it’s ended. I needed to develop some way to “document” the performance. I got to work. 

After trying ink, spray paint, watercolor, pigment, and food coloring, I determined that the food coloring was the best additive to the diffuser because it was both thin enough to be diffused but also vibrant enough to show up on paper. After experimenting with different types of paper, I concluded that a thin parchment-like art paper picked up the colored vapor the best. To contain the vapor in a confined space, both for health and safety reasons but also for creative purposes, I built a clear 12-inch by 12-inch cube to enclose the diffuser within. The diffuser and clear box sit upon a large white pedestal, adding to the minimalist and sleek aesthetic I was aiming for. Lastly, I added a simple puck light on top of the clear box to add elements of illusion and shadow into the project, and it truly ties the performance together. 

This project is quite significant to me, as it was the first performative sculpture I’ve made but the actual process of making it was very didactic. I learned how to problem solve by working on this piece, helping to strengthen my identity as an artist. Colors in Captivity is just the beginning of my journey down this niche and specific, yet oh-so-captivating, side of the art world. 

Author: Zoe Kovac