The mandalas and art of Sheba Blitz in Second Life

InterstallART: Simply Spiritual

Mandalas, whether presented as art or an expression of spirituality or as a symbol of the universe or as a result of geometric teasings of fractals, have long fascinated me. The name literally means “circle” in Sanskrit, and within Buddhism and Hinduism the mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol representative of the cosmos around us.

Within Second Life, an artist who captures everything of the rich context, ritual form, balance and harmony of the mandala in her art is Sheba Blitz, and she is currently the Artist in Residence for August at  InterstellART, where she is presenting Simply Spiritual, featuring several of her mandalas, and more besides.

Sheba draws on numerous sources as inspiration for her mandalas. Some of these may be close to the spiritual origins of the form – Buddhism and Hinduism -, others might be as diverse as western astrology or tarot cards. Whatever the source, she produces these marvellous pieces using gouache, acrylics or metallic paints on either canvas or paper, and the uploaded images offered for display within Second Life lose nothing of the intricate beauty of their production.

InterstallART: Simply Spiritual

One of the most fascinating forms of the mandala is created by Tibetan Buddhists. Called dul-tson-kyil-khor (mandala of coloured powders”), or sandpainting, it is a most intricate ritual that sees the production of the most stunning mandala art that has to be seen to be truly appreciated. None of the pieces produced – generally over the course of several days – survives long after its completion; instead, it is destroyed and the sands used taken to a body of water where they are given up as an offering. The entire process serves as both a metaphor for the “impermanence” of the physical world, and also as a means to reconsecrate the earth and its inhabitants.

In many respects, through their survival beyond the creative process, Sheba’s mandalas also offer a metaphor. However, rather than being representative of the impermanent nature of the physical world, their continuance serves as a reminder of the enduring beauty of the universe in which we reside.

InterstallART: Simply Spiritual

Sheba notes that she didn’t originally come to Second Life to display her work. However, after joining, she found herself drawn to the world of art in Second Life, attending exhibitions, seeking other artists, buying pieces by others, and immersing herself in the means to experience art in a new way. Fortunately, she was asked to start exhibiting her own work, and Second Life has been the richer for it.

More recently, the rich diversity of artistic opportunities she’s experienced in SL has led Sheba into new avenues of expression, notably in-world photography and 3D art and sculpture. Simply Spiritual also presents some of the fruits of these broader endeavours, with a number of Sheba’s paintings, photographs and 3D art also on display within the gallery space.

InterstallART: Simply Spiritual

An engaging visit, Simply Spiritual will run through until the end of August, 2018.

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Meditations on a Black Kite in Second Life

Black Kite; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrBlack Kite – click any image for full size

In writing about the closure of Namaste and Kamigama recently (see here for more), I made mention of the fact that with all the “new” regions and ever-changing region designs in Second Life, it is sometimes easy to forget the more long-lived locations in-world that are open to public visit.

Those comments put me in mind of a region I first visited nigh-on six years ago, and to which I haven’t written about in the last four. So, I decided to heed my own suggestion and hop over to it and spend a little time there.

Black Kite; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrBlack Kite

Black Kite is the home of Cloudy (Theblackcloud Oh), and it has been open to the public for as long as I can remember it being in Second Life. Over the years it has undergone changes here and there, but by-and-large it has always remained a tranquil, water-focused setting, and this remains true today.

This is a place where azure waters gently flow under a matching sky broken by lazily drifting clouds of white. The ankle-deep water is dotted with wooden decks and board walks, some connected one to another, others sitting as isolated islands to be reached by gentle wading, short steps offering a way up onto them.

Black Kite; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrBlack Kite

The decks are home to assorted points of interest – a couple are the location of the 8f8 store, another offers the chance to rest alongside the Moon, a third features a little open-air café (one of the elements of Black Kite that tends to remain as other elements come and go), while others offer places to simply sit and while away the time.

Watching over this is the region’s signature kite, caught on a mystical wind and aided in its oversight by the strange bobble-topped trees that rise from the waters alongside platforms and around the landing point. Throughout all of this are invitations to throw aside worries and care and just be: “Do what you want”, Celebrate”, “Nothing really matters”, “Dream” … Even “Go fly a kite”, painted on the water beneath the floating kite, reads more as an invitation than it’s more usual sentiment.

Black Kite; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrBlack Kite

For those who have previously visited, the 8f8 store, the kite, the trees, the café and the water tower will all be reminders of Black Kite’s endurance in Second Life. So to are the bottles and jars scattered around, offering those who want to meditate in peace and quiet – and behind glass – the ability to do so. But so too are the subtle changes to be found on repeat visits spaced a little time apart from one another.

In my case, and on this trip, these changes took the form of a tower of shipping containers I can’t recall having seen before, and the arrival of assorted “cuteness” around the region – the “ice cream bunnies” at the café, for example, or the plushie birds. Small changes, perhaps, but enough to keep the camera and eyes roving, and the feet wandering through the region to discover what else might be.

Black Kite; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrBlack Kite

Cloudy does still keep a private residence in the north-east corner of the region, and this is barred to public entry – but the rest of the region remains as open and as free to wander as ever. In fact, one of the joys of Black Kite always has been the fact it is uncluttered. Board walk, decks, platforms – all are scattered across the region with sufficient water between them as to engender among those using them a sense of being apart from others, free to relax in your own little space on one of the decks even when others may be a-visiting or enjoying a break for themselves.

Given that so many places occupying private islands come and go with (sometimes alarming) frequency, that Black Kite remains in-world, open to the public and asking so little in return, for more than six years now, having originally been claimed in March 2012, and remains under its original “ownership” is pretty remarkable. As such, I’m glad I’ve made the time to not only revisit for the first time in several years, but also to write about it once more.  And as with my two previous posts, I’ll again suggest that if you’ve never visited Black Kite before, and wish to see somewhere just that little bit different, you jump over and take a look for yourselves.

Black Kite; Inara Pey, August 2018, on FlickrBlack Kite

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Black Kite (Black Kite, rated: Moderate)