I generally try to avoid trumpeting myself in these pages, so I hope folk will forgive me for doing a little tooting of my horn here.
Back at the start of 2022 – January 4th, in fact – Strawberry Linden extended an e-mail invitation to me to participate in Spotlight, the Lab’s weekly official blog post series that highlights the work and lives of Second Life residents, and which originally kicked-off with Bryn Oh back in November 2021.
I’m not sure what happened – crossed wires, lost e-mail or something else – but the invitation went AWOL somewhere along the way. So I was both pleased and flattered to have the opportunity to participate again, Berry kindly forwarding her original questions to me once more, and inviting me for a photoshoot for the main profile image in the piece.
The finished article appeared on April 13th, 2022, and if you’re so minded, you can read it here. I’d just like to thank Strawberry for the original invite, producing the profile photo, and putting the piece together.
Opening on Wednesday, April 13th is a further joint exhibition at the main gallery within Frank Atisso’s Art Korner – one that again features the work of Traci Ultsch, who this time partners with Monique Beebe. Between them they offer two distinct exhibitions that share some common threads.
With Hell is Other People, Traci presents a series of pieces that are in part spiritually connected to her March exhibition at Art Korner – and not just because they share the same space on the upper level (see: Danni and Traci: portraits and colour in Second Life). This is a series of images that share much of a common root with that exhibition, challenging us to consider the individual in each of them, but to do by using them as a lens through which we might consider the question who am I?
In this respect, Hell Is Other People tackles some heady concepts – Satre, solipsism, phenomenology – who we really are when we see ourselves through the eyes of others. Hence the title of the piece, which is perhaps one of Satre’s most famous lines. It first appeared in his 1943 play, Huis Clos (“No Exit”), in which three men find themselves in hell – and come to realise their everlasting punishment is to see themselves through the eyes of others.
All those eyes intent on me. Devouring me. What? Only two of you? I thought there were more; many more. So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE!
– “Joseph Garcin” in Huis Clos, Jean-Paul Satre 1943
To explore this, Traci introduces the pieces in the exhibition via text from philosophy.com, while the pieces themselves offer unique perspectives of avatars. Portraits, yes (like those of the March exhibition), but from unusual angles and / or cut through with lines of colour or blackness, each one communicating a view, a perspective that might be seen as analogous to the idea of seeing oneself differently – through the eyes of others, one might say.
For Still Waters run Deep, located on the lower floor of the gallery, Monique Beebe also offers a series of images – self-portraits – that also have an introspective nature – and more. As the introduction to the selection notes:
Art is not created with the viewer in mind. It flies from the soul. The pictures on Moni each has their own story, their emotion. They resemble loneliness, waiting, hope and a little spark of hope.
The first part of this statement is an unattributed quote that has been used in various contexts, but here helps to provide that common thread that links Moni’s work with Traci’s: that her art is a reflection of herself. Each piece, as the introduction notes, is intended to convey an emotion, a story, we are invited to explore and consider. And perhaps, through viewing them and reflecting further of what drew us to the stories we feel they say, come to a better understanding of ourselves.
A labour of love that was created during a time of healing and personal growth. It symbolizes new beginnings and hopes for a better future. The destination is open for all to enjoy and is the perfect place to relax alone or with a loved one.
– SL Destination Guide entry for Anyas Awakening
I was led to Anyas Awakening after reading the above description within the Destination Guide recently; it struck me as so heartfelt that I had to pay a visit – and found a setting that is utterly engaging in its mix of natural beauty, mystique and fantasy.
Occupying a Homestead region, Anyas Awakening appears to sit under a night-time setting (or at least, that’s how I found it during separate visits each lasting a couple of hours apiece, promoting me to use my preferred daytime setting for the photos seen here). The landing point lies to the north of the region where a large gazebo sits within a forest glade. A note card giver lies between it and the archway leading to the rest of the setting, although at the time of my visits, it was not responding to being touched.
The trees around the landing point give the first hint as to the wooded nature of the rest of the region. A path runs down under the arch of the landing point to where it joins a trail crossing the region in a north-east / south-west orientation. Across this trail from the landing zone’s path there rise a set of steps leading up to a raised glade sitting at the base of high cliffs.
Running due south, the glade ends in another set of steps offering the way to where the ruins of a church stand, and aged courtyard to one side and a paved path that turns east to where a bridge spans the waters at the edge of the main island to reach a smaller one that serenely floats above the water, another place of worship or celebration that carries a unique human / elven mix that makes it an attractive destination.
Whilst it may once have been a place of worship, the church now looks to be used as a place of calm retreat and music; a garden of peace and calm where doves and deer have gathered. A piano sits within the ruins as a haven for butterflies, while candles reflect their light in a polished mirror.
More ruins lie within the mid-level glade below the old church and also atop a rise at the north-east end of the main trail, where they can be reached by a further set of steps.
These latter ruins also contain a sense of peace and retreat, a swing hanging from one of the stone arches facing the carved figure for the forest goddess. Her form can also be found at the south-west of the trail, where she stands over the waters of a pool fed from falls that drop from a horseshoe curtain of cliffs.
Within this simple description there is much more waiting to be found; from swings to seats to walks among the trees, while statues and carved figures, together with lights strung within the branches of shrubs and trees add to the setting’s mystique. Wherever one roams, the woods are rich in the sound of bird song, while deer keep an eye on all the comings and goings and the sound of piano music drifts on the breeze from the church (five options are available from the piano, but perhaps the most well suited piece in Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata).
I’ve no idea quite what Anya experienced that led her to create Anyas Awakening – and I’m not about to pry; knowing isn’t important. What matters is the fact that the setting she has created offers a most serene and refreshing retreat, rich in detail and form, with opportunities for photography aplenty. For those wanting to spend time in quiet contemplation, reflection or simply regathering their wits, I can think of no better place in which to do so.