The art of Bicycles in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: Bicycles – Melusina Parkin

Most of us have probably owned – or still own – a bicycle, whether it be for fun, sports, fitness, part of our daily working routine (or even a requirement to work) or simply an alternative means of getting out and about and enjoying the countryside / local sights. We can lavish care and attention on them to keep them in tip-top condition, or we can simply regard them as a utility and replace them when they get too old or break. But are they art?

Well, yes they can be – as the July / August 2018 exhibition at DiXmiX Gallery demonstrates. Entitled Bicycles, it is a slight departure from the more usual run of exhibitions at the gallery, in that it takes up all three halls as a single display of themed art, featuring images by 25 Second Life photographers.

DiXmiX Gallery: Bicycles – Anu Papp and Ornella Batriani

Taking part in the event are: Calypso Applewhyte, Ornella Batriani, Skippy Beresford, Bliss Bookham, Jimmy Boots, A.DeLauren, Mareea Farrasco, Carisa Franizzi, Gaus, Huckleberry Hax, Kimeu Korg, Loverdag, Mich Michabo, Key Monk, Tutsy Navarathna, Mr Noboby, Randonee Noel, Karen Oliven, Anu Papp, Melusina Parkin, Megan Prumier, Grace Rotunno, Dixmix Source, Twain, and Jonda Zabaleta, with each artist submitting one or two images.

The pieces vary in style and presentation. In some, it is not unfair to say that the bicycles might be considered incidental to the overall image; they were simply a part of the landscape or setting when the picture was taken. Equally, some appear to have been use to frame an image intended to convey a broader emotional response than a focus on the bike itself. Then there also those where the bicycle is clearly the intended focus, bit it being ridden, standing on its own, lying broken, or images just in part. Thus, we get to view the bicycle in numerous ways, whether central to an image or not.

DiXmiX Gallery: Bicycles – Tutsy Navarathna

Which is to say this is a richly diverse exhibition in which the subject matter is more broadly presented than one might think. All of the images are captivating in one way or another, be it the way in which they are offered, the narrative they encapsulate, the use of colour and tone – or the various combinations of these factors. Presentation is also a significant part of the images and their presentation: the collection of monochrome pictures on the upper level of the Grey Gallery, for example, offers a power contrast to the majority use of colour images through the rest of the exhibition, while the considered placement of Cloudy Day by Gaus and Bicycle 3 by Key Monk also providing a contrasts with their surrounding images, and thus capturing the eye. Meanwhile, the two large format images in the foyer area of the Grey Gallery demonstrate how humble velo can be an icon of pop art.

The emotional content of the images is equally as broad as the colours, tones and subjects offered through the pictures. But there is one emotion often associated with bicycles that within this exhibition is conspicuous by its almost total absence: joy.

DiXmiX Gallery: Bicycles – Skippy Beresford

Yes, bicycles can be props to frame moods and offer a sense of depth and feeling, be it with someone leaning moodily back against their bike, or walking it gently over terrain unsuitable for riding, or in the sight of a machine lying broken or bent. But bikes are also fun. Riding one can give a wonderful sense of freedom, a liberating sensation of speed and escape. It is for this reason I fairly leapt at Skippy Beresford’s Last Day of School (seen above). Yes, it’s not unfair to say the bicycle is in some ways incidental to the broader idea of escape from the routine a rigours of the school week – but it’s equally fair to say the sense of exuberance and excitement exuded by the picture perfectly encapsulated the sheer sense of joyful freedom a bicycle can offer.

Which is not to detract from any of the other images displayed here; all do have something to say, and all are fine examples of the subject and the artistry of the photographers. Why not take a ride to DiXmiX yourself and have a look?

DiXmiX Gallery: Bicycles – Jimmy Boots and Mr Noboby

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Starz Art Corner in Second Life

Starz Art Corner: Sisi Biedermann

Starz Art Corner is a Mainland boutique art gallery operated and curated by StarZ (StarZ33 McCullough). at the time of my visit, it was hosting four exhibitions: the three lower floor display areas offering works by DJ Silky (Sandralee Palianta), Baub Alred (Baub Clarity), and Sisi Biedermann respectively; the upper floor devoted to a special and personal display of art by StarZ herself.

I’ve always enjoyed Sisi’s art within Second Life; her paintings are always engaging, rich in colour and pleasing to the eye. At Starz Art Corner she presents what is probably my favourite among her many exhibitions: Wild Animals in Art. It’s an exhibit that presents exactly what it says on the introductory poster: wild animals as the subject of art. It does so in the most endearing and eye-catching of ways: the animals presented against – or as part of, in some cases – tiled mosaics of the most vibrant colours.

Starz Art Corner: Sisi Biedermann

In viewing these paintings, it’s tempting to use the phrase, “lions and foxes and bears, oh my!” (in difference to the fact there’s no painting of a tiger here), but this runs the risk of trivialising the sheer beauty of the pieces on offer, which fully deserve to be seen first-hand. They are truly marvellous pictures in which the animals and birds come across as very much alive even when – as with the wolves and the elephant – seemingly a part of the mosaic background.

Flanking Sisi to one side is Baub Alred, a digital artist who uses physical world people as the inspiration for his art, which can tend to focus on ” the area of magic, mythos, & the macabre”.

Starz Art Corner: Baub Alred

For Starz, he presents some 13 pieces which definitely – thanks to the frequent inclusion of a little ghost, as well as the appearance the odd skull and foggy backdrop – have a decidedly Halloween feel to them. These are again marvellous pieces, beautifully executed, each with a sense of fun that is often finely juxtaposed with a more serious leaning title.

To the other side of Sisi’s exhibition is DJ Silky, who presents 19 pieces of 2D part and one 3D element – a large vase with an animated texture. There is a rich variety of styles and subject here: with five monochrome pen-and-ink pictures face off against coloured painting comprising acrylics on canvas, vector paintings, house paint on plywood and a set of very unique 2D representations of scenes painted inside wooden wine boxes.

Starz Art Corner: DJ Silky

There is a richness and depth to all of these pieces that is again incredible and which definitely holds the eye; the monochrome drawings and two vector painting in particular captivating me.

Dark Times is offered at the title for StarZ’s exhibition on the upper floor of the gallery. It’s a deeply personal exhibition with a series of dark themes:  verbal abuse, depression and alcoholism – but it is also about happiness and survival, as StarZ notes. As such, she offer the pieces within the exhibition as both a means of reflecting on her own dark times, and also to offer those who are facing their own struggles and demons a sign that life can move beyond what might seem to be the most insurmountable barriers and horrifying depths of pain and depression.

Starz Art Corner: Starz

The dark sounding theme of this exhibition contrasts strongly with the rich use of bold and primal colours in many of the images presented. However, colour can often be a means to define moods, emotions, feelings – love, anger, hurt, pain, resentment – that the depth of colour in these images is entirely appropriate, both in terms of giving voice to those emotions and responses felt by the artist and, conversely, as a means to demonstrate that even in our darkest moments light – as exemplified by colour – can prevail.

Abstract and expressive, Dark Times is a powerful display of art, one that hold a person within a personal mix of emotions and responses which can in turn further draw them deeper into the substance of this exhibit.

Starz Art Corner: Starz

Individually and collectively, these four exhibitions make for an engaging and provocative visit without the visitor being necessarily overwhelmed by any one of them. All of which makes time spend at Starz Art Corner very worthwhile.

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Italian artistry in Second Life

Astral Dreams Project

Astral Dreams Project is an exhibition celebrating Italian arts and creativity in Second Life, and to which I was recently invited to seen by the exhibition’s creator, Oema Resident.

“I was asked by Jack Davies and Mina Arcana, (the holders of the famous Astral Dreams region) to work with them to create an artistic project that helps to promote work of Italian artists in Second Life,” Oema informed me ahead of my visit, and framing the exhibition for me.

Astral Dreams Project: Ciottolina Xue

Given Italy’s role in the development of art and artistic expression in all its forms down through the centuries – architecture, painting, sculpture, design, and so on – an exhibition celebrating the work of some of the many Italian artists in Second Life really is appropriate; and Oema, Mina and Jack have clearly endeavoured to fold as many aspects of artistic expression into this installation.

Take, for example, the setting itself. This is a reproduction of the Piazza di Spagna, Rome, one of the most famous squares in that city, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church located at the top of the Spanish Steps, which descend to the Fontana della Barcaccia. Within the exhibition setting, these elements come from the collections of Italian SL designers Acqua Aria and Dogma9, who are also responsible for the buildings used to represent the rest of the piazza – although a little licence has been taken in places. The Palazzo Barbieri, for example, site to one side of the square. In the physical world it more correctly belongs within  Piazza Bra in Central Verona; but its presence here is very much in keeping with the theme of the project.

Astral Dreams Project: Paola Mills

The square itself presents two rows of boutique gallery spaces for 2D art displays, facing one another across the cobblestones, while the buildings either side of the Spanish Steps (one of which occupies to location of the Keats-Shelley Memorial House) are presented as galleries spaces for the sculptures of Ciottolina Xue and Mistero Hifeng.

During my visit, the 2D display spaces featured the work of Paola Mills, Lorys Lane, Renior Adder, Desy Falcone, Magda Schmidtzau, Clarisa Congrejo, CandieSheel, Degoya Galthie, Jarla Capalini and Oema herself. I’m not 100% certain if these artists will be rotated with others, or if they will remain on display throughout the life of the project. Oema did indicate to me there are events in the planning to introduce further artists; but this doesn’t necessary mean those currently on display might vanish; there is still room for more.

Astral Dreams Project: Mistero Hifeng

I say this because both the Palazzo Barbieri and the Trinità dei Monti were, at the time of my visit, home to reproductions of classical Italian paintings, so they might yet develop into further gallery spaces for SL artists. If nothing else, the “Coming Soon” sign that was displayed outside the Palazzo Barbieri indicates that this at least would be a further gallery space in the near future.

There is perhaps a slight preponderance of avatar studies among the 2D art currently presented. This is not surprising, given the popularity of this genre of SL photography. However, it does run the risk of overwhelming the eye, and is perhaps why, that among the 2D artists, I found myself repeatedly gravitating towards Renior Adder and Degoya Galthie, both of whom offer quite different displays to the rest (which also should be taken to mean I did not appreciate the art of the other artists around the piazza!).

Astral Dreams Project: Degoya Galthie

I don’t have dates for further openings in the project, but I will be keeping my eye on it to see who else might have their work exhibited – and I certainly recommend it as a worthwhile visit for those who enjoy SL art.

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A Rusted Farm in Second Life

Rusted Farm

Rusted Farm, the latest installation by Terrygold, open on July 6th, 2018. With it, Terrygold leans towards an ecological theme.

Visitors arrive in a tunnel  – actually a drain which might otherwise act as a run off for rain water – where a series of information boards provide notes on preferred viewer settings and provide background notes framing the piece, all of which should be read: just touch the flags below the images to have the notes delivered in text in either English or Italian.

Oil pollution: it’s a contamination of the environment (soil, air and above all water) caused by all kinds of liquid hydrocarbons, i.e. from crude oil or its derivatives. Oil pollution can be systematic or accidental … Systematic or chronic pollution is often much more serious than accidental one. The lumps of tar deposited on the beaches in the seaside resorts derive mostly from the residues contained in the ballast water discharged into the sea.

– Extract from the Rusted Farm introductory notes

Rusted Farm

At the end of this tunnel is a ladder offering the way up out of the drain. To reach it, visitors gain the first hints of the direction in which Terrygold is taking the piece: strange-looking fish circle, watched over by equally curious bugs hovering overhead. At first appearing to be mechanical in nature, it takes a while to realise they might actually  be made up of waste material – rusting metal, discarded bulbs, with dorsal fins looking like deformed plastic six-pack rings, and so on. Beyond these, barrels leak oil into the drain.

The “ground” level, reached via a ladder placed beyond the fish and barrels, is a large field of sun-ripened wheat over which more bizarre creatures stand or fly. Birds look more like drones; ants and spiders again looking as if they are made up of waste and rubbish. Great spherical tanks with spigots are raised on spindly legs or set into the great wall of a building, apparently dripping water onto the field of wheat, giving it life.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine debris particles (mostly plastic) in the central North Pacific Ocean. It’s located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N to 42°N.

Extract from the Rusted Farm introductory notes (from wikipedia)

Rusted Farm

It is a bizarre scene, the field also crossed by pipes and other drains, raised above the crop as if ready to receive liquids. Nevertheless it is one, with the backdrop of a setting sun, seems innocuous outside of the initial framing of the information boards. Looking at the strange ants, birds and spider, it’s easy to put it all down to artistic licence.

However, dominating all of this is the flank of that huge building, in which a tiny door sits, reached by climbing one of the pipes and then walking along it. Opening this door and touching the blank wall beyond it to activate a teleport, reveals the truth of matters. Giant pipes sit within the walls of this building, rusted, ugly and dripping huge gobs of brown liquid – oil waste, contaminated water, take your pick as to what it might be; the key point is at least some of it is being delivered to collection drains which then carry it away and into the soil being used to grow the wheat.

Thus it is that we have the complete picture: fish, birds, insects a metaphor for the waste products we’re dumping into the world’s oceans, burying in landfills, and so on; the pipes and liquid waste a reminder of the waste products we let contaminate the land and which, ultimately, enter our food chain (as represented by the wheat). And it is apt that among the bizarre creatures we find in Rusted Farm Terrygold has included a deep ocean angler fish, highlighting the fact that while we tend to point to things like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (estimated to possibly range between  700,000 sq km / 270,000 sq mi and 15,000,000 sq km / 5,800,000 sq mi in area – that’s between Texas and Russia in size), the impact of plastic pollution on the sea floor / deep ocean is still largely unknown.

Rusted Farm

A possibly dark installation in theme, but one intended to prick the conscience, Rusted Farm is also a curious mix. Despite the underpinning message, when taken on its own, the wheat field with its strangely crafted insects and birds is from some angles almost a garden of sculptures ready to be appreciated in their own right.

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A visit to Another Planet in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Another Planet

Cica Ghost opened her latest region-sized installation on Wednesday, July 4th, 2018, offering visitor the chance to visit Another Planet, a place where aliens roam free under the arches of strange landforms (are they mineral? Are they vegetable?), and where rocks – perhaps asteroids that were once falling from space – float serenely above various points in the scene, held aloft by invisible forces.

It is a strange landscape, in places pockmarked by tiny impact craters in the sand; in others the rock is covered in a an irregular pattern of indentations that from a distance almost look like they are indented scales on a skin. The strange “growths” rising from this gently rolling land also in places show signs of weathering by meteor strikes, suggesting they were once a part of the ground from which they rise. Here and there, odd circular protrusions rise and fall, as if breathing in a steady rhythm.

Cica Ghost: Another Planet

The aliens here come – if you discount human avatars (and who are perhaps more correctly the aliens within this environment) – two forms. There are strange, slug-like creatures with large, black eyes set either side of a small hooked proboscis, their bodies expanding an contracting along their length, even though they don’t move. Then there are the smaller creatures, who stand upright on ribbed conical bodies. They also have large eyes set into their round heads – perhaps indicative of the low lighting common to this world.

Despite seemingly without arms, these smaller aliens appear to have a degree of technological mastery; there are hover bikes and flying barges moving around the landscape, perfectly suited to transporting one or two them around (or indeed, one or two human avatars should you opt to sit on them – and if they don’t take your fancy, there is also a floating platform drifting around the sky). And as flying around may not appeal to all of them, some have apparently developed a form of television, and have gathered around it eagerly, some giving vent to very human frowns directed at others, possibly because their view was temporarily blocked.

Or… perhaps the television and the flying machines are the remnants of another time and civilisation? Who can say?

Cica Ghost: Another Planet

Visitors to the region are presented with a choice: to explore in their default form / look, or grab a free alien disguise from the vendor at the landing point. For those seriously interested in exobiology studies, the alien disguise is a must, helping you to blend in. And by “exobiology studies”, I mean having a little fun.

Another Planet is  a further marvellous, whimsical installation by Cica; one which comes – as do most of her designs – with a quote. It’s from English author, humorist and musician, Benny Bellamacina:

Find out if you’re still human, observe yourself from another planet

Cica Ghost: Another Planet

It’s an interesting quote, intended to give us pause and remember who we are. At a time when so much discomfort and hurt is being caused to so many around the world – the displaced, those seeking refuge, the lost – both in their own countries and those where they had hoped to find rest, help, and support, it’s perhaps a fitting little poke at our individual and collective consciousness; a reminder of what we should be to our fellow human beings.

Whether you opt to think on deeper things or to simply sit back and enjoy, Another Planet once again illustrates the magic of Cica’s imagination – which should be enough in itself to encourage a visit.

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Dimmie at Caledon National Museum

National Museum of Caledon

The National Museum of Caledon is a venue for art featuring monthly exhibitions and a chance to wander and relax in the neighbouring gardens.

Curated by Star (astarynite), the museum is a grand building in a neo-classical style, well suited to the Caledon environs, sitting with its back to the water, a trellised patio to one side where patrons can relax and enjoy the view over the gardens and appreciate the grand folly topped by a slowly revolving globe of the Earth. Or, should visitors be inclined, there is a short climb to a raised garden where the mind can wander whilst playing the harp.

National Museum of Caledon: Darlingmonster Ember

To my shame, I arrived at the museum towards the end of the current exhibition – I believe each runs through the months from start to close the end – because the current display, entitled What Would Dimmie Do? featurs the photograph of fellow Second Life grid traveller, Darlingmonster Ember, who also happens to be a resident of Caledon.

Thanks for taking the time to drop by and see what I’ve been working on. So many folks in Caledon in their avatars and the places we find on the SL grid. That’s what you’ll find in this showing … So there isn’t a theme here, except perhaps the SL experience of my 10 years …

Darlingmonster Ember on What Would Dimmie Do?

National Museum of Caledon: Darlingmonster Ember

Offered for our enjoyment across both floors of the museum is a selection of pictures by Dimmie, many charting her travels, others focused self-studies, all presented here as something of a historical record. From dark, almost portending studies to a richness of colour and gaiety, this is a selection which evokes a broad range of emotional responses as well as offering both a glimpse into Dimmie’s life and travels and upon some famous places that have appeared in Second Life over the span of time.

Many of the images appear to forego the common practice of post-processing to present almost “raw” studies and views. In an era where capturing scenes from within Second Life seems to be less about using the viewer’s available tools and more about demonstrating a mastery of PhotoShop, this really is a refreshing and natural exhibition – hence again my apologies for arriving so late in the exhibit’s run.

National Museum of Caledon: Darlingmonster Ember

Should you have the time before June fades away, do make the effort and drop in to What Would Dimmie Do?; I think you’ll likely be as entranced at I was in visiting – and keep an eye on Dimmie’s Flickr photostream if you’re so minded as well.  Plus, if you enjoy her exhibition, do leave a comment in the guest book; while an offering towards the continued upkeep of the museum would also doubtless be appreciated by Star.

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