Cica’s Funday in Second life

Cica Ghost: Funday, January 2022

Sunday, January 2022 saw Cica Ghost open her latest installation in Second Life – just in time for us all to have some extra New Year’s fun.

Funday offers a strange, partially-ruined town, a place where buildings are often lacking the accepted number of walls and roofs, and where courtyards and floors sit partially exposed, partially broken, while roads and paths are entirely absent – the way to get around is to simply wander over grass and under the trees.

Cica Ghost: Funday, January 2022

However, this is not a place of ruination; rather it is a place of contrasts and brightest; a playground, if you will. Paintings of flowers and windows brighten walls – one of which has Cica’s smiling face peeking down on those below, and another of her playing with a butterfly; washing lines are draped with oversized socks and jumpers, and run between towers and poles, suggesting they could by shimmied along, Nor are all the buildings in ruins; a number of them form thin, squat towers sitting upon pedestals, some of which can be reached by ladders.

Scale is something that doesn’t matter here; chairs suitable for avatars mix with couches (and floor lamps!) big enough for giants. Meanwhile, the local inhabitants  – cows, sheep and chickens – suggest a farm may once have been a part of the setting, while the local ponds are home to decidedly oversized frogs and a water worm.

Cica Ghost: Funday, January 2022

Given this is a build by Cica, there is also a mix of interactive elements (including the seats mentioned above) awaiting discovery, allowing visitors to enjoy a dance or two and even perform some acrobatics.

Easy to explore and with elements that match its the first part of its name, Funday presents an easy way to relax and enjoy Cica’s creativity.

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  • Funday (Thenest, rated Moderate)

The Incal and the 4 mazes in Second Life

Akikaze: The Incal and the 4 mazes

Currently open at the Akikazie art hub, curated by , is a new large-scale installation by Betty Betty Tureaud which, for lovers of mazes in liable to be a measure of fun.

The Incal and the 4 Mazes takes as its inspiration the French graphic novel series The Incal (L’Incal), written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and originally illustrated by Jean Giraud (aka Mœbius), who published the initial stories in the series in the sci-fi / horror Métal hurlant (“Howling Metal”) science fiction / horror comics series he co-founded, with the full story later published as a single volume by Marvel/Epic. Set within a fictional universe, the story follows the adventures of one John Difool (in fact, the first story in the series was published in  Métal hurlant as “an Adventure of John Difool, and artefacts referred as the Incal – The Light Incal and the Dark Incal.

Akikaze: The Incal and the 4 mazes

The graphics novels include multiple themes, include technology, religion, space, good and evil,  and more. Within her installation, Betty pays homage to some of the themes and ideas through the four titular mazes of the the installation. These are placed individually placed in four blockhouses, and can only be accessed via a teleport. Each maze has a theme (or element) – Space, Earth, Techno, Mind – with those visiting referred to at the 5th element (a passing reference, perhaps to Luc Besson’s cult sci-fi  classic of that title?).

Accessing the mazes is a case of clicking on one of four teleport options arrayed at the landing point,  an Incal (Space), an eyeball (Mind), a pink flying creature and a cube that is mindful of those of the Borg (Techno).

Clicking on any of the them will carry you into one of the mazes. These are all designed around s similar layout, and the object in to find your way to the centre and both a gift and a teleport back out. None is particularly hard to complete and again – having not read the Difool series, I’m not entirely aware as to how each ties back to L’Incal.

However, there is a rich degree of symbolism within some of the mazes. Within the “techno” cube for example, the Borg-like is continued, but more particularly, some of the hallways of the maze are marked by curtains of binary notation (and clouds of binary lines tumble here and there as well). These may at first appear meaningless, but actually represent “2022” –  the year we have just entered. Meanwhile, within the “Mind” maze, there appear eyes and hands that bring to mind the Lab’s own eye-in-hand logo.

As well as the mazes, visitors can walk between the blockhouses to a teleport point at their centre. This provides access to the Incal floating over the installation as it flashes light through the four blockhouses.

Akikaze: The Incal and the 4 mazes

Those teleporting up to it will find sit points allowing them to take flight around the Incal  – although be careful when you stand: it can be a bit of the drop to the blockhouse below. There are several other points of interest around the installation – a crystal that rotates on being touched, another that generates a pyramid of glowing light, a cube that will provide information on Betty and a rezzer for a buzz fly creature you can sit on and take to the air.Curious, symbolic,  carrying with it an element of fun and the homage to Jodorowsky  and Giraud Incal and the 4 Mazes offers an interesting visit with rewards from Betty.

Akikaze: The Incal and the 4 mazes

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A Cathedral and Silent Beauties in Second Life

The Cathedral and Sinful Retreat – Fly Kugin: Silent Beauties

In September 20221, I visited Chuck Clip’s Sinful Retreat art hub to witness The Falling Leaves, a series of watercolour paintings by Fly Kugin (FlyQueen), uploaded by the artist for presentation in Second Life (see: The Falling Leaves: Fly’s watercolours in Second Life). At the time, the tone of the notes with the exhibition and Fly’s own Profile gave the impression she was taking a possibly extended leave of absence from Second Life. I was therefore surprised – and delighted – that just before Christmas, I received an invitation to visit a further exhibition by Fly, which is once again being hosted by Chuck and Jewell, this time on the Sinful Retreat adjunct region, Angel’s Rest.

Silent Beauties features Fly’s second collection of watercolours to be displayed in-world, and it is one that continues her exploration of watercolour painting as a means of expression through the creation of pictures depicting flora and flowers. However, where The Falling Leaves focused more on the former, Silent Beauties presents twelve simply gorgeous paintings of garden and wild flowers.

Offered as individual pieces for one-time sale (no copies), with each flower simply presented on a white canvas, the fifteen pieces in this collection are genuinely captivating – as is the setting for their display, which should be seen as a work of art in its own right, as I’ll come to in a moment.

The Cathedral and Sinful Retreat – Fly Kugin: Silent Beauties

The majority of Fly’s pieces are individually hung – the exception being Rose Effect, a group of four paintings of a rose presented in a single frame. Most of the paintings are offered with a single dominant colour / tone that reflects its title and / or emotional essence, including the four paintings of the rose to be found in Rose Effect. Taken individually or together, they demonstrate that Fly has, in the 6 months since she commenced her experiments with watercolours, become an accomplished and expressive artist in the medium (a further proof of which is the fact that all of the pieces have already been sold, and the exhibition only opened on December 21st).

The space in which Silent Beauties is being exhibited is The Cathedral, a build that might be said to be a piece of Second Life artistic history. Originally designed and created in 2009 by Patch Thibaud, it was textured by by DB Bailey utilising alphas to create its distinctive crystalline look. In 2020, Djehuti-Anpu (Thoth Jansen), an immersive, multi-media artist whose work I’ve long appreciated and admired, joined with DB to add media textures to the build, magnifying its depth and richness.

The frames for Fly’s art are displayed along the columns of the cathedral’s knave, one or two per column. These columns also feature some of the media surfaces Thoth has added to the Cathedral. To witness them in all their glory, together with the rest of Thoth’s artistry, (which blends well with Fly’s paintings), enter the Cathedral and enable media playback (click the movie camera in the top right corner of the viewer, alongside the media stream button and those for camera and graphics presets). The image below offers a sample of what you will see.

The Cathedral and Sinful Retreat – Fly Kugin: Silent Beauties

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A touch of sci-fi at 22 Artspace in Second Life

22 ArtSpace: Ricco Saenz (l) and Wicca Merlin (r)

The holiday period is often a time for sitting back and enjoying a film (or six!), and networks and streaming services tend to offer us an especially good mix of genres to enjoy – including a drop or two of sci-fi. I mention this because Ricco Saenz and Randy Firebrand are currently presenting a pair of exhibition at their 22 ArtSpace Gallery in Bellisseria that mix the subjects of sci-fi and film quite naturally.

Within the main gallery space – occupying one of the Victorian style houses within Bellesseria – is a further pairing of artists in what might be seen as a continuation of the gallery’s “duet series”, with Electric Sheep featuring a series of images by Wicca Merlin and Ricco himself.

22 Artspace: Ricco Saenz

For his pieces, Ricco follows-up on the exhibition title with pieces that could be said to be inspired by Ridey Scott’s Blade Runner films (and those that are stylistically similar). They offer us a series of images set within a city, focusing on an assortment of individuals; setting and subject forming a whole in scenes which it is easily possible to imagine Philip K. Dick’s Rick Deckard – as personified by Harrison Ford – walking or running through, or Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty from the original Blade Runner film standing and observing – or calculating his next move in his quest for continuance.

Wicca Merlin, meanwhile, offers images very much focusing on the individual. Some of them would not look out of place in Dick’s / Scott’s Los Angeles, others of whom could equally be found in the likes of the Alien franchise – or the imagination of H.R. Giger. Others offer a touch of fantasy, whilst all are expressive and make rich use of colour and tone, with more than enough within them for us to form our own stories around them without undue prompting.

22 ArtSpace: Wicca Merlin

Reached via teleport, the second level of the gallery – and, I believe, new with the current installations – is a skybox that is home to an exhibition of images be Huckleberry Hax.

Waarheid: Truth Hunter offers a series of 14 images focused on the character Waarheid, first seen in Hax’s 2020 sci-fi machinima STÖMOL (which I reviewed here), played by Caitlin Tobias and who is due to lend her name to Hax’s follow-up to STÖMOL, due for release in 2022.

These are images that, outside of the context of Hax’s films might be hard to grasp. Drenched in a bloody red, dark in other tones, their focus / meaning isn’t that easy to comprehend sans the introductory notes Hax provides, and the descriptive elements added to each picture. These provide insight to the character, helping to round-out her background from before STÖMOL and lay a foundation for the character in readiness for the next film.

22 ArtSpace: Huckleberry Hax

Both Electric Sheep and Waarheid are small exhibitions, easily seen as a pairing, joined as they are by their sci-fi themes. As such, they make for an easy, enjoyable visit for the holiday season, although both will be open to visit through until March 19th, 2022.

Note: updated following the comment, below, from Huckleberry Hax on his Waarheid exhibition. 

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Melu’s Shining Street in Second Life

Art Korner: Melusina Parkin – Shining Streets

Melusina Parkin is a Second Life photographer whose work never fails to impress and attract. Her images are among some of the most unique to be found in SL; beautiful blendings of focus, colour, tone, subject, angle and minimalist presentation that present us with highly personal yet resonant photographs that bring her subjects to life in a way that never fails to attract.

Generally building her exhibitions around an idea or theme, Melu uses her camera not only to present that theme, but to explore it, observe it, and even question it – or cause us to question what we are witnessing, thanks to her ability to offer not just a a moment in time, but an actual phrase within a wider narrative, inviting our imaginations to define what that wider narrative might be.

Which does not mean Melu’s art cannot be enjoyed simply in and of itself; all of her images are so perfectly composed and composited, that they stand as individual pieces that can be appreciated purely for the artistry they contain, without the need to plumb deeper ideas or thematic elements.

Art Korner: Melusina Parkin – Shining Streets

With Shining Lights, now available at Frank Atisso’s Art Korner, Melu explores the world of the signs and lights that illuminate our city nights, as presented within in Second Life. In doing so – as she notes herself – she follows in the footsteps of Walker Evans and other;, photographers who frequently used signage, billboards and the like as a means of adding depth to their photographic documentation of American life (Evans perhaps pioneered the technique whilst employed by the  Farm Security Administration, documenting the impact of the Great Depression  in the 1930s, and often returned to the subject of signage and billboards through his career, particularly during his 22 years with Time Inc..

Within this collection, Melu again offers her unique approach to her work – that use of angle, focus, depth of field, etc., that allows her to present the Shining Lights of Second Life in a manner that – thanks to her use of darkness / night to offer contrast to the bright glow of lights whilst avoiding wider structural detail – is again very minimalist in tone and feel, even when the colours are rich and bright.

Even for those of us very familiar the the neon glow that flows through our cities, Melu offers us completely new ways of looking at the night signs of a city, inviting us to view them not so much as informational / promotional elements designed to invite or entice, but rather as expressions of art in their use of colour and – particularly with neon lights – flow. Within this is also the hint of narrative – what are the lives being lead behind the glowing windows of high apartment blocks or who might be working within the illuminated of high office buildings.

Art Korner: Melusina Parkin – Shining Streets

Some of the images – consciously or not –  touch on memes and tropes that too often get trotted out about SL – take Shining Streets 2, Shining Streets 3, and Shining Streets 8, for example. Others might be more emotive in the way they encourage memories of visits – real or virtual; or they simply give us pause to reflect on the art of the neon lighting itself, as noted above; an intricate form of lighting with its own form and flow.

There is something else within these images as well. We often talk about the beating heart of a city – the pulsing of life through the veins of its streets as we all come and go about our daily lives, travelling on foot, by car, by public transport, eating, talking, working, laughing, shouting through the hours of daylight. But at night, that pulse of life is changed; we still flow through the streets, we still meet and talk and dine and allow ourselves to be entertained, but only because we have the lifeblood of lights, be they neon, fluorescent, LEDs, OLEDS, incandescent, and so on – that holds back the night and like our ancient, primal times of pre-history, give us the sense of comfort and protection we still very much need.

Within Shining Streets, Melu beautifully reminds us of this: under the bright glow, the high fingers of illuminated windows and the invitations, the lights of our shining streets – always seen, if their artistry is rarely noticed – give us companionship and holds off the darkness that might otherwise leave those same streets not only darker, but also more threatening in their layered shadows.

Art Korner: Melusina Parkin – Shining Streets

All told, Shining Streets is another captivating exhibition from one of Second Life’s most expressive photo-artists, and one more than visiting.

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The avatar artistry of Gianmario Masala in Second Life

Art Street Gallery: Gianmario Masala – The Eternal Leave

I recently received an invitation from Vally Ericson (Valium Lavender), owner of the ValiumSL regions in Second Life, to visit a new exhibition of images now on display at the Art Street Gallery, located in the air above the Valium regions. Entitled The Eternal Leave, the exhibition is devoted to the striking avatar studies of Gianmario Masala, an artist whose work I cannot remember previously encountering – which, having spent time viewing The Eternal Leave, I cannot help but regret.

Multi-talented, Gianmario received a Master of arts in Architecture after studying in Milan, and is also recognised as a musician and a motion picture set designer. In particular, he is an accomplished photographer, his work having been displayed in several collective exhibitions in Milan, Turin and Naples. In addition he has also mounted solo exhibitions, including Il parco agricolo sud Milano (“The agricultural park south of Milan”), displayed in Milan, Vigevano and  Naples; and Harmonia, exhibited in Finland.

Art Street Gallery: Gianmario Masala – The Eternal Leave

Having entered Second Life in 2007, he was quickly drawn to the potential of photography within our virtual world, and started exhibiting his work in 2008. In 2010, his series Women Portraits was displayed on the metro stations of Milan as a part of a collaboration involving the Italian community of Arte Libera/2Lei in Second Life and the Brera Academy of Milan.

In both the physical world and within Second Life Gianmario’s art covers both landscape images and portraiture / avatar studies. His work involves considerable experimentation with a range of techniques from long duration exposures through to the skilled application of post-processing techniques and tools.

I try to create artistic images through post-production, giving them the aspect of a painted artwork. Through the variety of texture layering as a background, together with use of colour and focus, I try to give give the sensation of paintings of past centuries. In highlighting elements by fractured textures, I invite a sense of uneasiness, putting “beauty” up for discussion in order to reach a more deep sense of “truth”.

– Gianmario Masala on his art.

Art Street Gallery: Gianmario Masala – The Eternal Leave

For The Eternal Leave, Gianmario offers a selection of his avatar studies that bring together all of this in the most engaging of exhibitions spread throughout the various levels of the gallery. Mixing colour images with those in monochrome tones and / or black and white, these images are extraordinary in their richness of presentation and depth of narrative.

As a photographer, Gianmario notes he is influenced by some of the greatest painters down through the ages through to some of the most noted cinematographers and directors of the 20th and 21st centuries. This is also much in evidence through the images offered within this exhibition. The narratives, drawn as they are from classical art and from the central inspiration of music by English electronic band Massive Attack, are presented through the mix of subject, pose, colour, tone, camera angle and post-processing, whilst also opening the door on that discussion as the the nature of beauty and it truth.

Art Street Gallery: Gianmario Masala – The Eternal Leave

With the holiday period upon us, we’ll all possibly have more time for our SL explorations and travels, and when it come to art exhibitions, I can think of none better to visit for its breadth of presentation of avatar studies and portraiture than The Eternal Leave.

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