I’m not familiar with portraits; objects, details or landscapes are my favourite subjects. I’m not aware of the many secrets one needs to know to catch expressions, feelings or bias in a body or in a face. But sometimes I try that. It’s when a place, a dress, a pose, suggests an atmosphere or meaningful emotion.
– Melusina Parkin
These are the disarming words Melusina Parkin uses to introduce her latest series of images, Just Melusina, an enticing set of 34 self-portrait / avatar studies that are uniquely Melusina in appearance, tone and style that fully underline her use of atmosphere and emotion – and demonstrate she indeed has an eye for pose and look.
“Traditional” portraits tend to exercises in power and / or ego, however subliminal. The subject and their pose is what counts, the clothes they wear, the backdrop to their sitting, etc., are all merely accoutrements to the central theme of look at ME. Even self-portraiture can follow a similar route, although they can also lean the other way, projecting too much of the artist’s own self-reflection in a piece, although the end result is the same: to push their audience into a single track of emotional response.
Within avatar studies, ego can also play a role – who doesn’t want to have their avatar looking its stunning best? – but leaving aside things like Profile photos and personal shots, avatar studies within SL tend to focus on narrative: telling a story in a single frame. But often, rather than allowing the image to speak for itself, the artist will directly lead their audience into an interpretation of a piece through the use of an intentionally descriptive title that sets the foundation of what they are trying to convey. There’s actually nothing wrong with this where the story is the intent, but where the interpretation might otherwise be broader, it can focus too much on generating the primary response rather than – as with the likes of landscape images – allowing the audience to take in the whole and allow their thoughts and reaction to be more freely driven by what they see and perceive.
This is where the 34 images found within Just Melusina differ from the more “usual” forms of avatar study. While each and every one has obviously been posed, none are titled by anything other than by a number), so there is no leading by the hand when it comes to interpretation. The result is that what we see within each image is entirely a matter of our owner observation and emotional response – and this is broadened by Melusina’s skill in lightly (and sometimes indirectly) touching on smaller specifics within an image, as well as in using dress, poise and camera angle, to offer the way to larger stories our imagination might frame.
Take Just Melusina 34, for example (above). In a muted, soft-focus monochrome, it presents a woman sitting, perhaps curled with her knees up, on a sofa of some description. But is she at home or some public place? Just the hint of the chair is sitting on suggests a sofa, but could it be a vinyl-covered bench seat in public place that she has chosen to make her own. And is she alone or with someone? The turn of her eyes could suggest either; is she looking at someone whilst listening to them? If so who? A friend? A lover? A stranger? And if so, what does the neutral set to her expression suggest? Or has something outside of the frame attracted her attention? Is it something she is witnessing outside of wherever she is and seen through a window? Or is it closer, within the space she occupies, but not something with which she is directly involved? Or is she just lost within her own thoughts, unaware of either the sideways glance or the expression on her face? If so, what might be the thoughts she is lost within?
Thus, through each image, Melusina beautifully and lightly sets a scene – not an entire narrative, and certainly not a shout of “look at me!” – abut a scene. One in which we are invited to step and allow our eyes and emotions construct the narrative beneath.
And there’s more besides. Whilst all of these images open a veritable storybook of possible narratives to hold our attention, so too do some have other aspects to them. There are those that seem to have a more playful edge to them as they offer hints of other mediums – such as a possible call to Liza Minnelli in Cabaret or Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Others meanwhile, seem to offer hints of famous works to be found in the physical world – Just Melusina #17, with the use of pose and hair colour might be seen to offer an echo of Whistler’s Mother without actually ever being a direct take on it, but remaining true to itself.
Wonderful in scope and depth, this is another superb collection from Melu, and I hope you’ll take the time to see it.
- Melusina Parkin – Just Melusina (Time Portal, rated General)