This artist is bottling the scents of the people she loves

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In a small, windowless studio in New York, artist Ani Liu distills the everyday human scents that we often overlook or disguise. Her process begins with loved ones’ sweat, captured in used garments.

Raised in Chinatown as a daughter of immigrants, Liu learned to defend the smells in her packed lunches that seemed strange to classmates. Many years later in a long-distance relationship, she longed for the intimate sensory experiences lost in digital communication.

Smells, Liu says, stimulate connections in the brain, while sanitized environments limit creativity. As an alumna of MIT Media Lab, Liu’s science background informs all of her work, which lives at the intersection of art and science, and explores the relationship between science, technology, culture and identity.