A return to the Countryside in Second Life

Countryside, January 2020 – click any image for full size

It’s been 3.5 years since we last visited Countryside, the full region designed by Dick Spad (see A trip to the Countryside in Second Life). I’d been attracted to the region as a result of visiting Dick’s The Back 40 even earlier (in 2014 to be precise), and as it has been a fair amount of time since our last visit to Countryside, I suggested to Caitlyn that we hop over and see what has changed. The answer turned out to be “rather a lot”, but in a way that preserves the look and feel of the region as it appeared back in June 2016.

In 2016, Countryside appeared as a farming location surrounded by a rolling, hilly off-sim landscape that joined with the region to suggest the setting is far inland. Marked by a train line to the north and a cut by a stream towards the south, the bulk of the land given over to crop rich fields and woodlands to the north and south, and Dick’s private home tucked into the north-east corner.

Countryside, January 2020

Much of this is still true today: the sim surround remains in place, the stream still cuts through the region from the falls and pool not far from the landing point, and the rail lines and fields remain. However, the differences are also present. For one thing the landscape is caught within a late winter, the snow slowly receding, although deep banks remain – presumably cleared from the tracks that run through the woodlands and around the fields.

Another change can be found with the fields. They are now less regular than before and bereft of crops – the latter point hardly surprising given the time of year represented in the region. More than this, however, is the the fact that two of the fields no longer appear to be used for crop growing, having become home to the region’s mix of diary and meat cattle and horses. A third looks to have been flooded, the water still frozen to offer a skating rink.

Countryside, January 2020

The farm is still much in evidence – the workshop and windmill still sit to the north-west, beyond the end of the rail lines. They have been joined by a line of grain silos I don’t recall from 2016, which give a new edge to the east side of the region. Also to the north, the field the cattle used to occupy appears to have at one time been the home of a winter market or faire, but which is now all but cleared out, with just a few things awaiting their time to be put away.

The woodlands in the region seem to be more extensive than I remember from our 2016 visit, and there appear to be more places to sit across the region – a further camp site (with a cave close by), a tree house, and  places that sit close to the local wildlife – perhaps a little too close in the case of the bears around the beaver pool!

Countryside, January 2020

A nice touch with the region is the placement of pose points. These use traditional poseballs (gold for singles, coloured for couples) – a point in their favour, as it makes them easier to spot among the tress and rocks – and I particularly liked the balancing act along the rail lines. For those who like a view from the air, a static hot air balloon is tucked into one corner of the region, offering a mix of singles and couples poses. While it might not offer the best sight when looking immediately down – that of the little rail yard – it does offer good views over the trees and back towards the landing point.

Another aspect with the current design that continues the core theme of the region is the feeling that this is really part of a much larger setting. It is possible to wander the tracks and trails and feel like you’re walking for miles, while all the points to sit encourage visitors to perhaps tarry a while and appreciate the views and the sounds, while there are lots of little touches that make careful exploration worth the effort.

Countryside, January 2020

I will admit to having a few minor niggles with the landscaping – some of the plants could do with Full Bright being turned off, and some of the snow banks appear to be floating over the ground on which they should be sitting – but these issues are easy to overlook or – when taking photos – avoid. While the default windlight appears to be set to early evening / night (or at least, it didn’t change during the course of three visits), the region really does naturally lend itself to a range of windlights; for the picture her I tried to set one that suggests a crisp winter’s day, in keeping with the snow on the ground, but with enough sunlight to sit with the idea of the snow being in a state of thaw.

Overall, we found our visit as pleasing and enjoyable as the first time we dropped in back in 2016.

Countryside, January 2020

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A union of Art and Fashion in Second Life

Art and Fashion Union: Sisi Biedermann

Have you ever imagined a painting come to life? When the image from the canvas expands the frames and steps towards you? When do paints and brush movements turn into folds of fabric falling over a figure?

So reads the invitation sent to artists requesting they participate in Art and Fashion Union, and ensemble exhibition of art that opened on January 19th, 2020 at the Dragon Sanctuary Gallery. It was an intriguing invitation: to offer three pieces of art for display, with creators / models invited to use the art as inspiration to produce new fashion pieces that are to be featured in a special fashion show to take place on the last Sunday of January.

Art and Fashion Union: Alpha Auer

I didn’t have the confidence in my work to participate, but I’m pleased to say some 27 other artists weren’t so shy, and have come together to participate in the exhibition, with each – as noted – offering three pieces of art. The result is an intriguing selection of pieces from artists who may well be familiar to some, new to others and some of whom may not have exhibited that widely of late.

The complete list of artists comprises: Carelyna, Etamae, EvangelinaBurroughs, Jessamine2108, Lampithaler, LydiaFairmount, MTH63, Mylena1992, SecondHandTutti, ViktorSavior, Alpha Auer, Michiel Bechir, Sisi Biedermann, GeeJAnn Blackadder, Sheba Blitz, Zia Branner, Ilyra Chardin, Kayly Iali, Anibrm Jung, Silas Merlin, Saul Morigi, JolieElle Parfort, Melusina Parkin, Tom Prospero, Jamee Sandalwood, Talullah Winterwolf, and Callum Writer.

Art and Fashion Union: Kayly Iali

The display is presented across the two floors of the gallery, and given the nature of some of the pieces, it will be interesting to see the fashion items produced for the show. Will designers seek out an individual piece for inspiration, or see several pieces as a means to visualise a design, or will they be drawn to a specific artist rather than one or more pieces?

Thematically, the work of Sheda Blitz, Alpha Auer and EvangelinaBurroughs, as three examples, present pieces that might collectively inspire a fashion design, rather than one of the three pieces each presents forming a single point of inspiration. By contrast Sisi Biedermann, Lampithaler and Callum Writer – to keep the list to another three – perhaps offer pieces that individually encourage designs based on each of them.

Art and Fashion Union: Callum Writer

Exactly how designers will get to choose which work or works or artist they see as an inspiration is unclear to me. But regarding the art on display as potential incentives for design work isn’t the only reason for visiting the gallery during this month-long exhibition: each selection of three pieces by the participating artists offers a unique insight into their work and how they look upon art and Second Life.

Those wishing to attend the fashion show at the gallery can do so on Sunday, January 26th, 2020 at, I believe, 11:00am SLT.

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Paying It Forward: Fortuna Hills Gallery in Second Life

Fortuna Hills Art Gallery

We received an invitation from Chic Aeon to visit her new Fortuna Hills Art Gallery, which is not your usual gallery, offering as a does an interesting take on the concept of supporting others.

Currently featuring some 42 pieces of art – Second Life landscapes, close-up studies, pieces processed to present faux art finishes, etc., – the gallery’s display is a rich selection of art by Chic hat she is offering free to anyone who would like to add to their collections  / have some at for their SL home.

Fortuna Hills Art Gallery

As a long-time Second Life resident and creator (as well as being active on platforms such as OpenSim and Sansar, Chic explains making the art free as follows:

I have just opened a gallery of free art. There are currently forty works of various styles … hopefully, a range of 2D items with something for everyone.

I plan to add to the gallery regularly and soon have over a hundred works for people to choose from. This is part of a “Pay It Forward” movement that I started years ago in Opensim. I am revisiting the theme and hope others do as well.

– Chic Aeon of the Fortuna Art Gallery

Fortuna Hills Art Gallery

All of the pieces are provided with a resizer script, and the mix of art presented is rich, although I found myself particularly drawn to the SL landscape photographs and her monochrome close-up shots of items, which make for a particularly eye-catching collection of pieces.

Those interested in doing something similar to Chic and paying forward to help others, should best contact her should they need advice (I believe she also has a logo she can offer people).

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Grauland’s touch of Japanese Zen in Second Life

Grauland, January 2020 – click any image for full size

Grauland has been a place we’ve regularly returned to since first discovering it in March 2019 (see Art as a landscape in Second Life). A Homestead region held by JimGarand and home (in the sky) to his M-1 Art Poses, the region has in the past been the home to builds that offer something of a blending of landscape and art to offer very individual statements (see also A return to Grauland in Second Life).

For the start of 2020, the region appears to break with this tradition when first seen, appearing to lean towards a more “traditional” landscape design with less of an emphasis on art than has previously been the case. However, first looks can be deceptive.

Grauland, January 2020

The region sits as a group of four islands, split west and east and north and south. The south-eastern, and smallest, island looks as if it had once been a headland extending away from the largest island in the group, but which has become isolated as a result of time and tide wearing at its rocky finger, eventually bringing a part of it down. What is left is a dramatic promontory that forms a stunning piece of Nature’s own art.

Facing it from the west across a shallow channel is the second of the region’s two large islands, home to the default landing point (although this is not enforced). It sits with a grove of palm trees that climbs a gentle slope to the south, to another subtle statement of art; one with a hint of the orient: a zen garden. Sitting on a circular table of rock itself ringed by sand and manicured grass, it offers a place of peace and contemplation that blends nature and design to make an artistic statement of its own.

Grauland, January 2020

North of this sits a piece of landscaping that has been something of a constant with each Grauland design: Cube Republic’s marvellous Basalt columns. They sit on the coast of two of the islands, with a narrow channel between whilst extending out to sea like Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway. A bridge sits just behind them spanning the channel to link the south and north islands, with the latter also connected to the largest of the islands in the group via a rope bridge.

The region hosts two structures within it. One offers a hint of Japanese design as it forms a bathhouse / massage hut. The second is a more traditional style of a walled Japanese house, complete with a bamboo grove within the gardens and a small summer house. The bamboo continues beyond the wall of the garden, marching alongside a path that leads away from the house to run to where the former headland points the way south over the sea.

Grauland, January 2020

Throughout the region are multiple places to sit – on the beaches, in and around the buildings, in the gardens, offering plenty of opportunities to appreciate the landscape. there’s also a gentle sound scape to accompany the design that adds to its depth. However, the most intriguing element present in the region is to be found on the eastern beach just down from the landing point.

It is here that a group of four jet skis can be found. Open to anyone to use, these promise the opportunity to ride them beyond the boundaries of a standalone region up to a distance of 700m. This appears to be a viewer-side effect with scripted intervention on the server to present the visual appearance of travelling beyond the region boundaries to the rider and other avatars in the region whilst the rider remains anchored at the point they “crossed” the boundary. However, I’ll leave it to better minds than mine to comment on the technical aspects of such a system and its ins and outs.

Grauland, January 2020

As picturesque as previous iterations of the region, this build – subtitled Okinawa Islands –  offers a soothing landscape worthy of exploration, and as ever, makes the region worthy of a visit, whether for the first time or as a returning visitor.

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The sensual lens of Velvetsdream in Second Life

Velvetsdreams, January 2020

Currently open on the adult (and BDSM-oriented) region of El Desvan, is an exhibition of photography by Velvetsdreams. I’ll say up front that the subject matter might be considered NSFW by some, but it is nevertheless enticing. I’d also note that for those who may be a little put-off by the idea of visiting a BDSM region, the exhibition space sits on its own, surrounded on three sides by raised terrain and / or curtain walls of rocks, so there is little risk of seeing anything untoward beyond the gallery area.

Open through until February 14th, the exhibition is also BDSM-oriented, although all of the images – whilst some do include nudity – are not overly explicit. Rather, many offer moments in time that emphasis the more sensual element of D/s, while even those that do stray more to the B/D aspect of things are rendered in a manner that leans far more towards sensuality rather than the more physical aspects of this form of activity.

Velvetsdream, January 2020

In this respect, it is the strength of storytelling that makes these images pieces that push aside possible thoughts of voyeurism in looking at them, leading one to consider each piece in terms of the tale into which it provides a glimpse. At the same time, many of the pieces offer a peek into the many themes that can cross through many of the subjects people often associate with the BDSM / D/s lifestyle, including latex, bondage, worship, and pony play.

Throughout all 20 pieces, there is a richness of style from framing through lighting to cropping, that adds a depth of life to them, presenting them less as posed pieces, but as instants in the lifestyles of those depicted within each photograph.

Velvetsdream, January 2020

Provocative, erotic, sensuous and captivating, this is an unmistakably eye-catching and engaging exhibition.

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Therese Carfagno at Ani’s Gallery in Second Life

Ani’s Gallery: Therese Carfagno

Currently open on the upper floor of Ani’s Gallery is an untitled exhibition by Therese Carfagno that offers a intriguing mix of images and styles, and which runs through until early February.

I say “intriguing” because the art on offer spans everything from SL-focused photography – landscapes and those with something of an avatar-focus – to more sensual pieces that appear routed in the physical world, to more abstracted pieces mindful of Jackson Pollack and pieces that carry a strong surrealist element. All of which makes this a creatively diverse exhibition well worth taking the time to witness, one that also includes a hint of Second Life history.

Ani’s Gallery: Therese Carfagno

The latter is most noticeable in Sunrise, Midday, Sunset, Midnight, a four-panel image on the left wall of the the gallery space, relative to the top of the stairs. The four images in the piece show AM Radio’s The Far Away, now co-curated by Ziki Questi and Kinn Kinnaird, all of which appear to include AM himself (at least going by the top hat) as one of the two figures standing in the wheat field.

A further reminder of AM Radio can be found within the poster facing the top of the stairs, featuring as it does AM’s Mary Poppins outfit. Next to this are two pieces, Sita 1 and Sita 2 that are richly surreal in their presentation of their subject.

Ani’s Gallery: Therese Carfagno

The more sensual pieces appear to mix both physical world and SL studies that offer nudity without crossing the line into outright NSFW. Two sets of of abstract pieces are to be found, both amidst the more sensual pieces – nicely breaking them up – and with the SL-centric images. Three are predominantly monochrome in nature, three in colour. Together they form two sets that re almost triptych in nature, the images in each set following neatly from one to the next.

I’ve not previously witnessed Therese’s art prior to this exhibition, but on the strength of it, I will be looking out for more exhibition of her work.

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