For her latest project, commissioned by the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum for the fifth installment of its Design Triennial, she tackled the scent of Central Park. Tolaas has done location-focused works in the past, capturing the scents of places such as Istanbul and Greenland, and with Manhattan’s most famous park in the Cooper Hewitt’s backyard, it made sense to develop a work based on that area.
But as the theme of this year’s Triennial is “Beauty,” Tolaas sought to play against what she calls “the classic clichés” of the word. When someone tries to imagine a “beautiful smell,” he or she might imagine perfume, fragrant food or some other pleasing scent. But for this show, Tolaas says, “I wanted to show the other side, and look at the beauty of decay.”