Visiting Crystal Gardens in Second Life

Crystal Gardens; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Crystal Gardens – click any image for full size

Crystal Gardens, designed by Sandi Beaumont (Sandi Benelli) is presented to Second Life travellers as a place for photography and exploration, offering visitors a ruggedly beautiful pastoral seam which is stunning in its simplicity and looks. This is my third visit to Sandi’s designs, having previously written about her work with her partner, Mikal, in February and July 2015.

A homestead region, Crystal Gardens currently comprises three north-south oriented islands separated by a channel of water. The more westerly pair form a finger of land, the tip of which has been sliced off by a further, narrow channel spanned by a log bridge. Both are low-lying and somewhat rugged – the smaller island to the north decidedly more so than its southern cousin. On it sits a conservatory with a distinctly French feel to it, offering visitors comfortable armchairs in which to relax, a small selection of drinks at a small bar, and the promise of possible entertainment, given the microphone and amplifier. It’s a place which hints at being a refined little club, tucked away where only those in the know might find it.

Crystal Gardens; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Crystal Gardens

A bar area also comprises part of the southern island, located on the terrace of a Mediterranean villa which appears to be someone’s studio. Bee hives close by offer the promise of fresh honey, while a rowing boat tied up at the wooden jetty offers couples the chance for a little dalliance on the water.

The twin of this rowing bow sits alongside the jetty across the narrow channel separating the largest of the islands from the others. It is here, outside a row of little beach huts that visitors first land. A cooked breakfast awaits anyone feeling peckish on their arrival, and a raft hints at possible adventure at one end of the jetty.

Crystal Gardens; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Crystal Gardens

Beyond the beach huts, the island opens out into a gently undulating scene ripe for exploration. To the south sits a small farm of distinctly Tuscan design, whilst northwards, over the low hill marking the centre of the island, a narrow rugged bay cuts deeply into the land, a distinctly modern, open-sided summer-house overlooking it, with horses grazing close by. The summer-house might belong to the occupants of a converted workshop sitting on the east coast of the island. This has been converted into a comfortable home, while the ramshackle pier on which it sits suggests both have seen a hard-working life in the past.

Watched over by two lighthouses, one to the north-east, and the other to the west and off-sim, Crystal Gardens suggests itself as a small, private island lying just off the coast of somewhere like Scotland or perhaps the Canadian coasts (although I couldn’t help but picture it lying Lundy-like in the Bristol Channel). It is ruggedly beautiful, with an air of serenity about it which naturally encourages visitors to tarry.

Crystal Gardens; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Crystal Gardens

For photographers there is much to be found here. While entirely natural in look and feel, and flowing as a considered whole, Crystal Gardens also offers the locations and scenes scattered across its rocky isles and around its coastline as individual vignettes, ripe for the camera – and I hope some of my efforts here show. So attractive is it for photography, it is very easy to lose track of time when taking pictures!

Whether looking for somewhere to take pictures, a place to explore or somewhere to simply pass the time of day, Crystal Gardens has everything you could need. Beautifully conceived and executed by Sandi, and topped with a matching ambient sound scape, it’s a place which should be on every SL traveller’s itinerary.

Crystal Gardens; Inara Pey, August 2016, on Flickr Crystal Gardens

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Peace is a Choice: expressions of art in Second Life

Peace is a Choice Gallery
Peace is a Choice Gallery

Located on the north coast of Nautilus and occupying almost the entirety of a region, sits the Peace is a Choice Gallery, founded and curated by Dove (TheDove Rhode). It is the home to an art display collected / provided over some nine years, from installations and artists past and present. As well as the gallery spaces, Peace is a Choice provides an event venue and an associated dance studio / meeting place.

Originally founded as the S&S Gallery of Fine Art, the current gallery is centred on a huge steel-and-glass building of sleek, modern design, and which is home to both 2D and 3D art. Outside of this, on the surrounding waters and the shoreline behind the gallery, larger pieces of 3D art can be found, together with the other facilities offered here.

Peace is a Choice Gallery
Peace is a Choice Gallery

The cross-section of art on display is astonishing, with pieces from Francis Bagration, Mona Byte, Giovanna Cerise, Treacle Darlands, Asmita Duranjaya, Russel Eponym, Duna Gant, Cica Ghost, Instincta and Stem van Helsinski, Stem van Kicca Igaly, Pol Jarvinen, Gleman Jun, Livio Korobase, Daco Monday, Robin Moore, Moya, Nessuno Myoo, Fuschia Nightfire, Bryn Oh, Cheen Pitney, sChan Resident, Spiral Silverstar, Miso Susanowa, Ub Yifu, Noke Yuitza, and Jedda Zenovka. Such is the diversity of the of the art on display, it’s very easy to lose track of time wandering through the gallery and exploring outside.

Whether you start your explorations inside or outside the gallery is entirely a matter of choice; there is no set path to follow, and Dove has wisely placed the art so that there are no assigned areas for individual artists. This allows for some interesting juxtapositions of art, technique and expression, allowing visitors to gain a strong feel for contrasting styles among artists in Second Life. That said, the interior of the gallery building can be a little bewildering: during one of my trips to the gallery, a fellow visitor candidly admitted in IM that he had been admiring two pieces of art on one side of the gallery, only to realise they were part of a small stage area for musicians!

Peace is a Choice Gallery - Livio Korobase
Peace is a Choice Gallery – Livio Korobase

I’m fortunate enough to have a SpaceNav, so I initially cheated with the art outside, flycamming around (although doing so does give a unique perspective for viewing 3D pieces of art). For those restricted to shanks’ pony, there are invisiprims set over the water, allowing visitors to examine the works up close without fear of vanishing under the waves.

The outdoor display also encompasses events area outside of the galley structure, where music events are regularly held. Another way to see the outdoor art is to catch a teleport to the neighbouring dance studio – still part of the overall complex – via one of the boards displayed around the gallery. From there, it is possible to stroll out onto the beach and appreciate the art (or take a dance lesson, if you’re also so inclined!).

Peace is a Choice Gallery - Bryn Oh (foreground) and Francis Bagration
Peace is a Choice Gallery – Bryn Oh (foreground) and Francis Bagration

Peace is a Choice makes for a fascinating visit, offer a lot to see. For those into sailing or boating, it’s location makes it reachable by water as well, although I didn’t spot any mooring facilities – so if you do visit boat, the teleport limo may well be needed when leaving. However, you do opt to visit, please consider a donation towards the continued existence of the gallery.

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