Farewell, Fran

Fran Swenson with her avatar (in the blue gown) Fran Seranade, and her daughter’s avatar, Barbi Alchemi (image courtesy of image courtesy of San Diego Union-Tribune / Bill Wechter

In 2013, I was able to write about the extraordinary Fran Swenson – Fran Seranade in Second Life – a Parkinson’s Disease sufferer who at the time had seen – and continued to see – something of an overall improvement in her condition, which she attributed to Second Life.

Fran’s story, which was reported in the likes of the San Diego Union-Tribune and Wired and came to be the focus of and one of the earliest editions of The Drax Files World Makers, was the trigger-point for her daughter, Barbara, establishing Creations for Parkinson’s in Second Life, designed to raise money for research into the disease and for a possible cure by supported the work of The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and providing a meeting place for those stricken by the illness and those seeking a sense of community and support. Fran’s response to her condition and Second Life was also the subject of study by Donna Z. Davis (Tredi Felisimo in SL) and Tom Boellstorff  (Tom Bukowski in SL).

The avatar represents who I really feel inside. When I look at my avatar, I feel like I’m looking at myself … I’m dancing now and I can run, hop, jump and have fun. I’m not just in my apartment, I have the whole world now. It’s thrilling!

– Fran Swenson (Fran Seranade in SL) on the joy and
freedom Second Life gave her

I met Fran, and her daughter Barbara, on a number of occasions in Second Life in 2013 and 2014, although sadly, I allowed contact with them both to drift over the years since. Throughout those meetings, I was always stunned by Fran’s energy; she always exuded happiness and a sense of fun that was infectious. It is therefore with enormous regret – and following word sent by Draxtor Despres – that Fran sadly passed away at the age of 92 on March 3rd. With her passing, a genuine, warm and caring light has gone from Second Life and we have lost a true pioneer.

Fran was an earth angel whose extraordinary love touched all who met her. From her earliest days, it was her lifelong mission to help people wherever she saw a need. Mom always said, “Love is unlimited. The more you give, the more love there is to give.”

– Fran’s daughter, Barbara Richards (Barbi Alchemi in SL),
remembering her mother

An in-world  memorial for Fran is being planned, but will understandably take time to arrange – I hope to help spread the word for all who may wish to attend once the date and time have been confirmed. If you would like to make a physical world donation in Fran’s names to help further the work of The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, please use the link below, where you will also find a memorial to her.

To Barbara (Barbi Alchemi in Second Life) her brother (AlmostThere in SL) and their family, to all who knew Fran as a friend and an active members of the Creation’s community, I extended my condolences at this time – as I’m sure all who knew Fran and her story do as well.

Mathilde and Kayak at Raglan Shire

Raglan Tree Gallery: Mathilde Vhargon

Currently open through until the end of March 2019 at the Raglan Tree Gallery are two exhibitions by two physical world artists who have a very different focus for their art to one another.

Mathilde Vhargon entered the world of the arts as a classical musician, but for the last 10 years she has seen digital art as her creative medium, having originally  presented 3D sculptures in Second Life before moving to 2D creativity using Gimp and ArtRage.

Raglan Tree Gallery: Mathilde Vhargon

My paintings suggest themselves to me a little at a time without conscious planning. I often use small sections of them as materials to develop into new paintings. I also like to create kaleidoscope and mandala versions of some of my original paintings.

I love strong colours and flowing abstract forms. You will often find ambiguous suggestions that lead the viewer to imagine various possibilities and interpretations. I am most happy when my art creates a chain of associations and questions about life and humanity.

– Mathilde Vhargon, discussing her art

Raglan Tree Gallery: Mathilde Vhargon

The richness of abstraction in Mathilde’s work is immediately evident on seeing the piece presented at Raglan Tree. These are bold pieces, rich a colour and depth, some encompassing natural shapes and elements – flower petals, leaves or the suggestion of a squirrel. Also on display are monochrome pieces, together with simple paintings that perfectly convey their sentiment, all rounded out by a collage-like piece Toward the Light and even one with a fractal-like suggestion to it, Memories of Grandma, that make this an eye-catching and rewarding selection to visit.

Sharing the gallery space with Mathilde is Kayak Kuu. Apparently taking his name from the fact he used to teach whitewater kayaking, his interests span the theatre and computers – he makes note of both his love of all things Macintosh / Apple and that a good deal of his time is spent immersed in community theatre activities. He is also an avid photographer, as his exhibition at Raglan Tree more than demonstrates.

Raglan Tree Gallery: Kayak Kuu

Photography has been a hobby of his most of his life since the black and white and early Polaroid instant film days … [he] travels extensively and that is where many of his photographs displayed here come from.

– from the notes accompanying Kayak’s exhibit at Raglan Tree

Just how extensive Kayak has been fortunate enough to travel is certainly laid witness to in this exhibition. Pictures from across the United States sit shoulder-to-shoulder with those from Canada, Europe, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Roatan…

Raglan Tree Gallery: Kayak Kuu

Such is the diversity of locations on offer, I suspect that anyone who has travelled in the United States or France or the UK in particular are liable to recognise some of the locations Kayak has uniquely captured. I admit to smiling through each of his pictures of York, Belfast and Edinburgh, all of which have particularly happy memories for me, as did his image of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C).

Presented in the round in on one of Raglan Shire’s great tree platforms, these are selections of art that demonstrate (again) that physical world art can have a place in our pixel lives and – with Kayak’s work – allows us to witness small scenes from places in this world we might otherwise not get to see.

Raglan Tree Gallery: Kayak Kuu

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