Artist Reimagines Smell and Taste Lost to COVID in Reston

Artist Reimagines Smell and Taste Lost to COVID in Reston

“Good Juju,” a sense-sational exhibition.

Julie Tova Malakoff assists with the installation of one of her works for the exhibition "Good Juju."

Julie Tova Malakoff assists with the installation of one of her works for the exhibition "Good Juju."

Reston Art Gallery and Studios featured the solo exhibition "Good Juju" by local artist Julia Malakoff. Juju is the energy, the positive or negative vibe, which surrounds us. Held in October 2021, Malakoff is one of many people infected with COVID-19 who experienced the loss of her senses of smell and taste as a result.

Olfactory and gustatory dysfunctions, as this symptom can be called, is a key symptom of the infection.

 During her solo exhibition, "Good Juju," Julia Tova Malakoff takes a few of her works outside onto the walkway in front of the Lake Anne Gallery & Studio.


A study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings looked at data from over 8,000 people with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and found about 41 percent lost their sense of smell. Losing the sense of smell impacts taste. About 38 percent reported loss of taste. A second study, published on Sept. 21, 2021, by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, discovered that roughly 80 percent of people infected with COVID who lost sense of smell recover smell function within six months. 

Malakoff is one of the 20 percent whose impaired senses have yet to return.

Malakoff said that before COVID, she relied on her five senses to interpret observations, which she translated into artwork. Now, forced to deal with the practical and psychological effects of losing her sense of smell and taste, Malakoff took her frustrations into the art studio.

"I imagine what food tastes like as I play with my paints, mixing up a variety of colors to whet my visual appetite. I want to dive into a delicious paint palette and paint sweet flavors to distract myself from my own debilitated, dysfunctional palate," she wrote in her artist statement.

The loss of one or more of our senses can have an impact on how we interact with the world and engage in the environment. Their loss can have a negative impact on mental health and quality of life, resulting in feelings of loneliness, fear, and depression. Unlike the loss of sight and hearing, the loss of smell and taste is invisible, a hidden disability. It breaks people’s links to places and emotional experiences, leaving them without the memories smells evoke. People may also lose interest in cooking or socializing while eating out. Taste disturbance or loss can also have a negative impact on nutrition. Finally, there is the loss of a hazard perspective, such as the smell of gas, smoke and foods that have gone bad.

Julia Tova Malakoff, a mixed media artist, creates works to spread 'good juju' as she struggles with COVID-19 smell and taste loss.


In an interview at the art studio last month, Malakoff said that the mixed-media works for "Good Juju" began from a positive place. She took a Crayola crayon after gessoing her wood panels. Malakoff said, "I write HOME SWEET HOME in large capital letters because I want to make sure that my art is coming from a positive place.” Malakoff added that she  takes the graphics and paints them in to make a palette, which she uses to fill the background of her wooden panels. "I then begin working on my collage." 

Malakoff’s mixed media collages are flowers, evocative of healing gardens. They are textured, with layers of hand-painted papers mixed in with markers and crayons. Stems and leaves are cut into whimsical shapes inspired by Matisse cutouts, her own photography, and inorganic objects.

Malakoff hopes that by reflecting on the magic around us and creating "good juju," she will be able to heal herself, at least in spirit, as well as other people who are dealing with their adversities.

For an appointment to view the works, email, or contact the gallery by visiting Reston Art Gallery and Studios is a privately owned cooperative gallery located at 11400 Washington Plaza West at Lake Anne Village Center near the lake’s fountain. All artwork displayed is marked for sale by the individual artist. The gallery advertises November’s artist as Marthe McGrath, Title: "Abstract." It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.