The Perfume Counter, an OpenAI installation

The Perfume Counter, an Installation and OpenAI Collaboration ©katherinerelfcanas2023


The Little Art Gallery installation, The Perfume Counter, emerged from Relf-Canas’ frustration at the cosmetic industry. This project focused on that industry as it is a microcosm of the greater societal problems, namely insufficient efforts to regulate the toxicity of chemicals present in many household and personal care products. Sadly, much of the industry’s strategy has been to mislead the public by clouding the truth. A writer, Relf-Canas used the OpenAI DALL•E 2 platform to create the images because of its link to the world of “artificial” things, such as the artificial compounds in fragrances. The art installation celebrates recent amendments to the California Assembly Bill (AB 2762), a law that will further regulate the cosmetic industry beginning January 1, 2025, and the Federal (HB 7667) law. 

DALL•E 2 surprises the user with output based on wording used in the description that users enter into a simple text box. In the app’s lingo, these are called “prompts.” DALL•E 2 is a new Artificial Intelligence system that creates realistic images and art from a description in natural language. Relf-Canas made more than 50 images using the system. She then enlarged some images for the installation to create a factory in bright hues as a backdrop to lab scientists laboring to reformulate healthier products devoid of the newly banned chemical compounds.

There is a sense of fun and play using the Dall•E platform, although it raises concerns about copyright infringement and unintended consequences.


Why all the clouds? Clouding the truth came to mind. I got really into this motif of clouds and fog and smog. People sometimes talk about having brain fog. It’s a nice metaphor. Picture the smoggiest day or city you’ve been to. Now think of all of that in your body!

Katherine Relf-Canas

This rose-tinted vision is offered up in the spirit of hope that recent amendments will soon lead to greater public safety.

One in four Americans reports chemical sensitivity. Almost half of this group has been officially diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS). It is one of many so-called invisible disabilities with diverse causes and symptoms. Some people don’t even know what they are suffering from. They just know that they feel odd after coming into contact with chemical-laden products, including those with fragrances. Many fragrance chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption, and other health problems.

“People may not realize that laundry soap, dryer sheets, and other substances are rife with scent,” said the installation’s creator. “This term ‘fragrance’ hides the truth–it clouds the truth. It’s unnerving,” she added. 

If you have concerns about your health or your family’s health, take a look at California Assembly Bill 2762 “Cosmetic Products: Safety.”  It will give you some idea of what is hiding in the products you may be using right now. It’s been a long time in the works and an important step toward improving everyone’s health.

Information on California Assembly Bill 2762

Information on House Bill 2100

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