Moni and Traci at Midgard Gallery in Second Life

Midgard Gallery: Monique Beebe, February 2021

Midgard Gallery is – for me at least – a new arts venue I was delighted to be pointed towards by Traci Ultsch by way of a personal invitation to witness the new joint exhibition she has there.

Occupying an underground cavern within the Land of Thor – a place I’ll be discussing in greater detail in an upcoming article -, the Gallery is one of three within the region, and is currently featuring Crash Traci and Portraits and Other Things Monique Beebe. these are two very different in focus, but which share certain aspects and elements in the manner in which they challenge the viewer to look into them and consider what they are seeing, that mark them as complimentary to one another.

Midgard Gallery: Traci Ultsch, February 2021

Crash, located on the mezzanine floor of the gallery, takes as its inspiration English author J.G. Ballard’s 1973 novel Crash, later made into a 1996 film by the same title, written and directed by David Cronenberg. Both novel and film gained notoriety for their depictions of symphorophilia – the experience of intense sexual arousal as a result of stage-managing and watching a disaster – in their case, the focus being that of car crashes.

Given the nature of the subject matter, it might be tempting to dismiss Traci’s Crash as a further excuse for voyeuristic gratification; however, this would be a complete mistake. Whilst sexual undertones are apparent within the images (take, for example the placement of the lock to a car’s glove compartment in Bodies: framed within the outline of a female body, it clearly serve the purpose of a nipple), this is no mere excuse to revel, as it were, in the subject matter of the novel.

Midgard Gallery: Traci Ultsch, February 2021

Rather, these are pieces, each one carefully constructed and presented, that use the theme of the novel to explore the basic concepts of art: how we define it; whether something that is intrinsically repelling as symphorophilia or some other socially unacceptable outlook, contain within it a thread from which some form of more positive expression be drawn. At the same time, there is a personal dimension added to the piece, with Traci noting that in producing these pieces, she sought to address a situation from her own life.

Each image is presented as a layered, almost abstract collage, taking images captured from within Second Life, editing and transforming them in tone and look, then combining them one with another and / or with images of wrecked vehicles from the physical world. The result is a set of tableau pieces that can be looked upon purely as abstracted art and / or through the prism of the exhibitions theme, each one daring us to look again and again; their concept and content shifting, challenging our overall perception of each of them.

Midgard Gallery: Traci Ultsch, February 2021

On the ground floor of the gallery, Monique presents portraits and Other things, a baker’s dozen of utterly engaging avatar studies that in places mirror Traci’s work by offering us collage-like pieces to appreciate and perhaps decipher, whilst elsewhere presenting narrative and / or pieces linked by theme, such as the “rabbit” series along the back wall of the gallery.

Moni is an artist I’ve long admired for her ability to capture an entire story within a single frame, whilst often also challenging us to look beyond the surface of her art, be it erotic in nature or a seemingly straightforward facial portrait, or which at first glance appears to tell a simple story, and see what lies within. She has an innate ability to layer emotions and feelings with her work that I find utterly captivating.

Midgard Gallery: Monique Beebe, February 2021

A  good deal of this is to be found in the pieces within Portraits and Other Things. With Chaos for example, we start with a collage featuring a human face that draws us to it simply as a piece to be appreciate for its sue of image, line, and colour. But it also contains hints of commentary on the chaotic nature of thought and mood, both of which can swirl and shift within us, such that the face we show the world around us is ever-changing; also within it stand the ideas of the chaotic bustle and churn of life around us, with all of these elements perhaps calling into question just who we are – as signified by the eyes of the central faces, the sockets becoming emptier as we scan from left-to-right.

Across the hall, Sadness offer a subtle layering of expression and condition to evoke the desired mood: that the subject is unhappy might appear to be evident from the forward tilt of her head and downcast eyes – although equally, this could be the prelude to a flick of the eyelids to provide an altogether different image, such as a coy glance into the camera lens. What actually gives this piece its emotional frame are the water droplets scattered across the subject’s face and their trails along her cheeks; they are as effective – if not more so – at conveying mood than had she been shown to be crying.

Midgard Gallery: Monique Beebe, February 2021

With two evocative displays of art from two of Second life’s most engaging artists, Midgard Gallery is well worth a February visit – and as noted, I’ll have more on the region as whole in an upcoming article.

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