Art isn’t just for the eyes.

Nowhere will this be more apparent than during this week’s First Friday Art Walk, when the “Sensory Circus” show opens at the Meg Perry Center in Portland. Featuring 20 artists, the show promises a feast for the five senses.

“I asked each artist to create a piece that uses three or more of the five senses and then one piece that uses one of the five senses,” said Abbeth Russell, 25, who is curating the show with help from her roommate, William Hessian. Both have work in the exhibition.

“I specifically invited artists I knew would do well with this,” Russell said.

And the results have been, well interesting.

“People are interpreting this in so many ways,” Russell said. “People hear ‘smell,’ and some want to do something gross and some want to do something really pleasing.”


Firmly in the gross camp is artist Megan Gates. She’s photographed armpits, and plans to pair these images with scents that correspond to each photo. Viewers will be invited to try and match the smells to the photos (or not, depending on the strength of their stomachs).

On the more pleasing side, artist Gloria Pearse intends to serve hot chocolate in hand-crafted mugs and bowls.

In between, the artists cover a wide range of sensory terrain.

Jonah Fertig of Local Sprouts Cooperative Cafe fame will do a food-related performance piece. Another performance piece comes from a potentially nude Jess Lauren Lipton, who will interpret the circus theme inside a carnival booth.

Using a vintage television set, Seth Dussault will serve up a video interview accompanied by smells that reflect what’s on the screen. Sebastian Meade’s contribution includes noisy, knitted robots.

Those who loathe the unpleasant sensation of a scratchy clothing tag will likely recoil in horror when they see Nickie Sekera’s coat with a lining made of nothing but rough tags. And one of Hessian’s works invites brave viewers to insert their fingers inside a painting and see what they encounter.


For her part, Russell has sculpted an 8-foot-tall “Ladder Person Guardian,” which will allow viewers to climb up, peer inside its head and listen to it whisper a poem.

During the opening reception, visitors will enjoy musical performances and jugglers along with the many interactive artist works. Russell estimates that between 6 and 8 p.m. will be the best time to catch the performance-based works.

Still, she promises “anytime you come in, there will be something crazy going on.”

Russell and Hessian host an art salon at their Portland apartment each Sunday night, and the idea for the show grew out of those gatherings.

“There’s so many people doing such a diverse range of things that cover all the senses,” Russell said. “I wanted to show how connected we all are and how art is something much more than visual.”

Russell moved to Portland four years ago to finish her studies at the Maine College of Art after studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the State University of New York’s Purchase College.


“I’ve fallen in love with Portland,” Russell said. “It’s such an amazing art community here.”

Noting that some of the pieces in the show may have adult content, Russell said the bulk of the works will be appropriate for all ages.

“It will definitely be weird,” Russell said. “I think it will be a pretty extreme show.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: AveryYaleKamila




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