The Eskol Photo Contest in review in Second Life

Eskol Gallery: Eskol Photo Contest

In December 2021, I wrote about Eskol, Morlita Quan’s art and event space in Second Life (see: Eskol: music, art and sound (& a photo contest) in Second Life). Within that piece, and as referenced in its title, the review also included information on the Eskol Photo Contest Morlita was running through December to the start of January.

On offer was a single prize of L$5.000 to be awarded to a single winner, as judged by a panel of three judges – Morlita, Lanjran Choche and myself. To enter, photographers could submit up to two images taking using one of the six photo booths Morlita had set-up specifically for the contest.

Eskol Gallery: Eskol Photo Contest – one of the 6 photo booths

In all 12 photographers submitted entries, comprising Mo Trill (1 image), Mystera Bloodbane-Ragnarok (Mysteria0402 – 2 images), Lucid (Photodoll77 – 2 images), Rya Santana (2 images), 4pril Resident (1 image), WuWai Chun (2 images), 04Noir (C1haos Resident- 2 images), 01NoirA Resident (1 images), Allanpoee Resident (2 images), Cielo Negro (Cielonegro Avril – 2 images), Néstor (NestorXX Resident – 1 image), and Iono Allen (1 image).

Each of the six booths offered its own setting in which pictures could be set and framed, and photographers could dress them as desired, and entrants submitting two photos could either take them in one of the booths or use two booths.

 Eskol Gallery: Eskol Photo Contest – Allan Poe and Cielo Negro

Unsurprisingly, most of the photographers opted to concentrate avatar-centric studies for their entries, with only a couple avoiding avatars entirely. Not that focusing on avatars lessened any of the entries; rather the reverse in fact: several presented very unique uses of the avatar and / or unique perspectives on a particular booth and avatar (as is the case with WuWai Chun’s Eskol 1 entry). whilst Iono Allen chose to offer a moment from a certain iconic 1969 motion picture (or as the director referred to it, “the proverbial good science fiction movie”).

While I cannot speak for the other members of the panel, I approached judging the submitted pieces on a set of criteria I’d settled upon before seeing any of them: composition (use of space, colour, lighting), framing, originality and narrative. However, given we all three each came up with a selection of seven initial finalists that were somewhat similar, I’d say we all used similar criteria. And certainly, the winning entry, C1haos Resident’s Eskol 2 was a piece we would all agree on as being a worthy winner.

 Eskol Gallery: Eskol Photo Contest – WuWia Chun and C1haos Resident

Currently, all of the entries are on display at Morlita’s main Eskol Gallery, and will be until early February, so why not pop along and judge them for yourself?

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Invisible beauty: more art of the microscopic in Second Life

Desiderartum Gallery: Guille – Invisible Beauty

In November 2011, I wrote about an intriguing exhibition of images by Guille (Antoronta) entitled Unseen Beauty, held at the Annexe of the Limoncello gallery. It was one of the the most unusual, engaging and informative exhibitions of photographic art I’d witnessed during the year, taking us as it did on a journey into the world of the microscopic (see: The art and beauty of the microscopic in Second Life).

While (at the time of writing) that exhibition is still open), I’ll delighted to say that the Desiderartum Gallery, managed by Peru Venom is hosting what might be regarded as the “part two” of a display of Guille’s work, in the form of Invisible Beauty, which formally opened on January 10th, 2022 (and my apologies to Guille for not being able to attend the opening in person).

Desiderartum Gallery: Guille – Invisible Beauty

The virtual incarnation of Antonio Guillén, Guille is a doctor in Biology and professor of Natural Sciences, whose background is as fascinating as his art, given his research projects span the environment, microbiology and astrobiology. He also has a refreshing – almost holistic, one might say – perspective on art and science in which the two interact with one another sans borders, informing one another and helping to jointly educate students and the public at large.

In particular, and given his professional focus on the microscopic, he has become a noted photographer-artist who captures the tiny worlds of micro-organisms – bacteria, fungi, archaea and protists – in all their exquisite beauty. And by “noted”, I mean precisely that not only has his photography been exhibited across his native Spain – including the National Museum of Natural Sciences, Madrid -, it has also garnered awards such as Spain’s National Prize for Scientific Photography and the Giner de los Ríos Prize, the country’s most prestigious educational award. In addition, his project The Hidden Life of Water received the first world award at a Google Science Fair (2012).

Desiderartum Gallery: Guille – Invisible Beauty

As I noted in November 2021, Guille’s work doesn’t just present images of these incredible, tiny and diverse living organisms, it takes us on a journey into their worlds, the images revealing them individually or collectively in the the most amazing detail, while the texts he has supplied to go with the images (obtained by clicking the title card either below or to the right of each image) reveal more of the realities of these micro-organisms – and not in in dry, scientific terms that are starved of emotion. Rather, Guille’s descriptions are wonderfully fluid, descriptive and in places poetic. It thus offers further life to the tiny creations his microscope has captured in still form, whiles also underscoring his belief that art and science should freely interact.

Like most of the algae of the desmids family “Euastrum” it seems to look at itself in a mirror creating a pair of green Siamese joined by the same heart in a game of symmetry in which survival today and that of the future are bathed of this simple and intense beauty.
A thick transparent layer, adorned with winding valleys, spines or sculpted buttons and made with cellulose and pectin protects the body from these beautiful algae and helps them to float and move slowly both floating and on the bottoms where they live.

Guille’s sparkling description of the supernova-like Euastrum Verrucosum

Desiderartum Gallery: Guille – Invisible Beauty – Euastrum Verrucosum

Split across the two levels of the gallery building, Invisible Beauty mixes some of the images seen within Unseen Beauty with those specific to this exhibition, providing a natural overlap between the two, and making a visit to both a natural experience.

In addition to the  journeys into the worlds of prokaryotes and eukaryotes presented by Unseen Beauty and Invisible Beauty, more of Guille’s work can be found on his Flickr stream, whilst in-world, his has – with the support and assistance of Kimika Ying – created El Universo en una Gota de Agua (“The Universe in a Drop of Water”). There, visitors can see more of Guille’s photography as well as learning about the history of the microscope and about the study of micro-organisms – and even enter their world, where a human hair offered at a scale to represent its magnification by a factor of 10,000 helps put all of this tiny life into perspective.

Universo en una Gota de Agua

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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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