Salt: an immersive arts degustation in Second Life

Salt

Salt is an immersive arts degustation. I’ve quite deliberately misappropriated the term ‘degustation’ [the careful, appreciative tasting of various foods, generally taken in good company] as this imparted itself as an ideal transition, because each segment-course is a unique work of its own volition.

Eliza Weirwight, discussing Salt

Salt is the title of the immersive installation by Eliza Weirwight, which formally opened over the weekend of June 16th and 17th, 2018. In terms of her non-commercial work, Eliza is perhaps best known for developing installations that reflect issues that concern her. This was certainly the case when I first encountered her work through her 2013 piece 35 Elephants, which you can read about in my article here.

This embodiment of matters that concern and / or have influenced Eliza are very much at the heart of Salt which, as Eliza notes in her introduction (quoted above), stands not as a single installation per se, but as a collection of scenes or elements or vignettes – call them what you will – which stand as pieces in and of themselves, but which all are drawn together via subtle threads of thought and outlook.

I will say from the top that this is not an easy installation to interpret. There is a deep layering of themes, whether they are in support of LGBTQ rights or statements speaking out against violence or inequality. In particular, there is a strong commentary on matter such as the objectification of women, gender-based violence, sexual predation, discrimination, hatred and on the state of “western” society as a whole which some may well find discomfiting. But so too is the installation richly emotive and evocative.

Salt

To define Salt, it is necessary to provide a little background information: while it is itself a new installation in and of itself, Salt has been a work gestating in thought and ideas for some time, as Eliza explains:

I was asked to produce a piece for One Billion Rising [Fourth Position]. It was eight little segments addressing things that were concerning to me … Some of the topics had such gravity, I refused to see them as disposable, and I had this idea bouncing around my head for a few years that I want to do this big thing, so I’ve woven a lot of that original work into Salt, because just about everything in this work matters to me. Some of it is my stories, and some of it is other people’s stories

Eliza Weirwight, discussing the origins of Salt

The “other people’s” stories Eliza references encompasses all those who have faced prejudice and / or hatred of any kind, be it based on gender, race, colour, sexual orientation or sexual predation. Within some of these issues she has drawn directly on the lives of others – notably Marilyn Monroe and  Phan Thi Kim Phuc; within others, she has drawn upon the work of artist of all genres – painters, writers, poets, musicians, to add flavour (depth) to the framing of the subjects represented by them. These influencers include – but are not limited to – David Bowie, Andy Warhol, M.C. Escher, Edgar Degas, William Blake, Maya Angelou, Pablo Neruda, and Norman Rockwell.

Salt: A take on Jane Elliott’s Blue Eyes–Brown Eyes. Sit on the chairs, and also note the comment on the wall from Jane Elliott in relation to the exhibit

The way these influencers are used is both intricate and subtle. For example, the very design of the structure housing Salt is mathematically precise in it use of shapes, whilst also offering something a challenge to the eye. Thus through it, we catch a glimpse of Eliza’s own appreciation for Escher’s work and the way in which it has captivated her thinking over the years. Elsewhere within the installation, Blake’s masterpiece The Tyger sits with a section related to violence, and thus its complex questioning on the nature of the creative force behind a creature as deadly as tiger becomes transformed into troubling questions on the subject of violence and those who would so willingly visit it upon others, becoming a further provocative motif within the section in which it sits.

Some of these references are delicately nuanced. The row of soup tins in Campbell’s Soup brand colours might initially appear to be “just” a homage to Andy Warhol. However the labels on these cans offer a statement on the ease with which bigotry and vitriol can be espoused on the basis of other people’s sexuality. Given Warhol’s own sexual orientation and attitudes prevalent in “respectable” society towards male homosexuality throughout most of his life, there is a deeper poignancy contained within this piece than might first be apparent.

Salt: Marilyn Monroe – objectification and self-harm

While the vignettes and scenes within Salt do, as noted, stand individually, so too can they complement each other, adding a further richness of narrative to taste and consider. Take, as another example, the exceptionally poignant section on Marilyn Monroe. Framed around an excerpt of six-page letter she wrote to the psychiatrist who would find her dead a year later, it cannot fail to evoke sympathy at the depth of personal suffering individuals can experience as we reflect of Monroe’s own life and suffering and the price that can be paid as a result of societal expectations.

But there is also a broader narrative here as well. Within the section, there are two images – Monroe examining a small sculpture of Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans by Edgar Degas – a man famous for his paintings of ballet dancers, and second of Monroe practising ballet. Both images offer a visual link back to the preceding section (in which a representation of Petite Danseuse de Quatorze can be found), although there is more at work thematically between the two sections.

As the quotes from likes of Vanity Fair and The Guardian accompanying the representation of Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans note, the manner in which Degas presented ballet dancers can often contain an almost misogynistic delight in portraying the pain and suffering inherent in their craft, somewhat objectifying them. Elsewhere in his art there can be a sense of male sexual predation. Thus, given that a lot of Monroe’s own suffering was a direct result of the objectification she faced, together sexual predation, the placing these two elements together within Salt intertwines the two, presenting visitors with a much more intense sense of narrative shared by both.

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3D surrealism in Second Life

Classical and Surreal Sculpture

Quite by chance I stumbled across Classical and Surreal Sculpture, an open-air exhibition of works of surrealism taken from famous exponents of the genre and rendered as 3D models by MADD (maddomxc Umino). It’s a small place, and the setting a simple parcel field covering just 3072 square metres.

Within this space, MADD has reproduced surrealist works of art by some of the more famous exponents of the genre, including Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957), Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916), Max Ernst (1891-1976), René Magritte (1898-1967), Walter Mac Mazzieri (1947-),  and Masaru Shichinohe (1959-), together with assorted reproductions of a number of sculptures,- most notably perhaps Prométhée (Prometheus) by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam (1705-1778).

Classical and Surreal Sculpture

Some of the more famous pieces by these artists are offered: Magritte’s The Lovers, for example, or Ernst’s L’Ange du Foyer (Angel of the Hearth) and Surrealism and Painting. Despite the small space, all of the pieces on display are set out such that the field doesn’t feel at all crowded, and a couple are presented with copies of the original 2D art on which they have been based. In the case of Surrealism and Painting, this has been done quite humorously – the sculpture is painting the image upon which it is based (rather than the piece the original is painting).

All of the pieces on display are offered for sale – a point that did admittedly leave me a little twitchy around issues of copyright, notably – but not exclusively – around the pieces based on Mazzieri and Shichicohe’s work.  However, and particularly in the case of the reproductions of the 2D art pieces, these are very well executed pieces, and while I’m not exactly a huge lover of surrealism (although I do admire Magritte’s work), this little corner of Second Life makes for an interesting visit.

Classical and Surreal Sculpture

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Colour, whimsy and monochrome in Second Life

DiXmiX Gallery: A DeLauren

DiXmiX Gallery, curated by Dixmix Source is once more hosting three exhibitions by three very different talents – although one of the exhibitions draws to a close during this current week. All three present some very unique art that tends to generate very mixed – in a positive sense – reactions on encountering individual pieces, making all three engrossing as individual displays of art.

Within the Grey Gallery, just inside the gallery’s main entrance, A. DeLauren – (AlessaMendoza) presents Colour Experiments, a display of 12 images split between the lower and mezzanine levels of the hall. As the title indicates, these are pieces where colour, perhaps more than subject, takes centre stage. The various ways in which colour and tone is quite extraordinary, from the violet wash of Rush Heat, suggestive of everything from erotic dancing, through to club lighting to the stunning and subtle use of blue tones  – ocean, teal, cerulean, Arctic, peacock and more – found in Wild Back.

DiXmiX Gallery: A DeLauren

Several of the pieces do draw attention to the central subject – as with Wild Back, and Dots Space; others border on a more surreal approach. Heat Wave 1, Triangles, Blue, and Butterflies Garden, for example, project feelings of motion within them or of looking into 3D anaglyph images without the aid of the required red / blue glasses.  Thus we are offered a most sui generis set of images to appreciate.

“Don’t burn your mind thinking about the meaning of this or that in my works; but if you think there are symbols and hidden messages, feel free to imagine. Go any way the wind blows!” So says Kimeu Korg of hi work, presented at DiXmiX under the title of Osmosis De Un Sueno.

DiXmiX Gallery: Kimeu Korg

This largest of the three exhibitions, occupying the lower floor Black Gallery halls and for me, the most delightful and engrossing of the three. There is something about Kimeu’s art which so often offers us a unique perspective on Second Life, well removed from “the usual”. There is also in some of his work a wonderful blending of physical art with images and settings from Second Life which again gives cause to exercise the word “unique” in its most positive of connotations. Further, there is also – frankly – a depth of whimsy in so many of the pieces, that when viewing them, it’s hard not to feel as if we’re in Kimeu’s company, sharing a nod and a wink with him.

The sheer richness of narrative on offer in these images – be it simple whimsy coupled with a little dark humour, or the melding of physical world art into SL scenes – is extraordinary. The whimsy can be found in the likes of Wind Serenade and Dickens’s The Drunk and, with the dark humour in Curiosity… and  …Killed he Cat, which are a delightful pair of themselves, but in this exhibition sit almost as a triptych with Amanece, que no es poco (Sunrise, Which Is No Small Thing).

DiXmiX Gallery: Kimeu Korg

In contrast, Is This The End Of The World? not only sits as example of how Kimeu combines art from the physical world – in this case part of Michelangelo’s famous fresco The Creation of Adam – with a scene from Second Life to create something which is eye-catching and also rich in motif. Note the ghostly astronaut to the left of the scene, perhaps representing humanity’s pride in technological achievement (and pride, as we know, is said to come before a fall), the presence of an eagle with its Biblical connotations, matched by the presence of a serpent coiled in the lower left corner of the picture.

I could wax lyrical about all of the images in Osomsis De Un Sueno – I’ve not even touched on the sheer evocative power of First Flight or the richness of expression any lover of musical will recognise in Under A Hat Is Always Music. However, suffice it to say that if you miss this exhibition, you are missing an absolute delight. I just wish I could be sure of the provenance of the painting at the centre of the marvellously surreal El Cerco (The Fence); I’m fairly convinced the vessel is HMS Victory (often painted flying the red ensign), but I cannot put my finger on where I’ve seen this particular image before…

DiXmiX Gallery: Kimeu Korg

Rounding out – albeit also coming to an end this week – this trio of exhibitions is Grit by Kato Salyut, which occupies the Mezzanine level White Gallery at DiXmiX.

“I photograph avatars and make them more exciting, more real and very special,” Kato says of his work, and the 14 images presented within Grit certainly offer some unique – surreal, even, in some cases – perspectives on their avatar subjects.

DiXmiX Gallery: Kato Salyut

Presented in monochrome, these images both contract strongly with the colours used in the other two exhibitions above, whilst the tone and approach of several of the pieces offered also complement the surreal and experimental aspects present in some of the works to be found in both Colour Experiments and Osmosis De Un Sueno. They also present a very different perspective on avatar studies often found with other artists.

Due to come to a close on the weekend of the 16th / 17th June, this is another visually powerful exhibition, and one which  – if you haven’t already seen – should be given time to appreciate in-world before it closes.

DiXmiX Gallery: Kato Salyut

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Cica’s Sunny Day in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Sunny Day

“It is the artist’s business to create sunshine when the sun fails.” So wrote Romain Rolland in La Foire sur la place (1908), the fifth book in his 10-volume novel Jean-Christophe (written between 1904 and 1912). It is the story of the life of a great German musician forced by circumstance to live in exile and it’s also the quote Cica Ghost has selected to place with her installation Sunny Day, which opened on June 9th, 2018.

“I liked the quote,” Cica says of Rolland’s words – and indeed they suit the installation admirably. This is a place that is bound to bring the sunshine of a smile to visitor’s lips and have them warmed by its whimsy and delight. But the quote also – by chance it would seem – might also reflect the broader of the theme of Jean-Christophe.

Cica Ghost: Sunny Day

From the landing point, visitors are invited along a series of offshore blocks and over a wooden walkway – beware of the great fish that seem ready to gobble the unwary should they stand on the walkway too long. On the landward side, a gateway bordered either side by flowers bids visitors to enter a little town of a most unusual kind.

This is a place where finger-like houses rise alongside lollypop trees, and the locals add their own splashes of colour as they stand outside homes or carry out duties such as tending goats, picking flowers or simply having fun. A pancake car, its shape reminiscent of a Volkswagen Beetle rolls around the single road surrounding the town while fish atop unicycle like poles rolls back and forth on large tyres. It is, in a word, a fanciful place.

Cica Ghost: Sunny Day

The whimsy continues up in the sky, where two suns pulsate with happy smiles on their faces, while towards the back of the town a giraffe awaits those who would ride upon its back, and a sea monster keeps an eye on all who come and go from the waters to the south-east.

While Cica might not always be present in person, what might be her double – albeit without her usual black dress – can be found outside the Cat Shop to the north-east. With a basset hound on a leash beside her, she invites people into the open-sided store, where Cica’s delightful cats (introduced with 50 Cats – see here for more) can be found and purchased.

Cica Ghost: Sunny Day

As noted, this is a setting that reflects the literal meaning of the Rolland quote: it is nigh-on impossible to pass through Sunny Day without feeling warmed by its light and sense of fun. As with all of Cica’s builds, be sure to mouse around, as there are several ways in which you can become a part of the setting. But how might it also reflect themes from Jean-Christophe, however accidentally?

Well, simply this: look closely at the characters scattered around the setting. There is a character with pointed ears, another is a neko. others are quite “ordinary” looking, while a white angel is easy to spot. All of them might be thought of as reflecting we, the denizens of Second Life.  And Second Life is a country  – of sorts – in which circumstance encourages us to spend time, just as circumstance (albeit it of a different flavour) forced Rolland’s protagonist, Jean-Christophe Krafft, to live his life in countries other than his own.

Cica Ghost: Sunny Day

A tenuous reflection? Perhaps – and I leave it to you to determine whether you find it valid (I’m of course overlooking Rolland’s re-examination of Beethoven’s life through Jean-Christophe) – but if you do nothing else, do make sure you visit Sunny Day and enjoy the its warmth and light.

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Heights of Haven boutique gallery

Heights of Haven Gallery

Heights of Haven is a newly opened boutique gallery operated by Maggie Blessing (Margaret Moleno) and Seiko Blessing (softandred) and (currently), featuring a small display of art by  Seiko and family member Micki Blessing (michellecallum) – although this might be “for the most part”, as some images are unsigned, so I’m not entirely sure on their provenance.

The images are a mix of landscapes and avatar studies on a variety of subjects, but with a degree of similarity between them; a similarity which extends to the stories they tell. This is not a criticism; taken together, the images have a familial feel to them that reflects the environment in which they are displayed.

Heights of Haven Gallery

As an exhibition space of personal art, none of the pieces on display are directly offered for sale. In an interesting touch, visitors are asked to vote on their favourite pieces. This is done by donating a minimum of L$10 via the candle burning under each picture. As the signs at the gallery explain, the five images receiving the most votes will remain on display for the following month.

This is an interesting way of raising funds to help keep the gallery active – and to help cover some of the costs involved in Seiko and Maggie’s other venture: the performing arts theatre next door to the gallery. They intend to use this to produce various shows, the début piece being Shall We Dance (opening date TBA). However, those wishing to buy any of the images displayed in the gallery can do so for a fee of L$200 per picture and by contacting either Maggie or Seiko.

Heights of Haven Gallery

Small it might be, but Heights of Haven is a nicely done “familial” style of gallery, and it’ll be interesting to see how the performing art theatre proceeds – and I’ll be pointing dance connoisseur Crap Mariner towards it :).

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Milly Sharple’s new fractal insanity

Fractal Insanity – The Art of Milly Sharple

Update, June 15th, 2018: I received the following from Milly – “I know I said I was staying put for a while but I ran out of space!” So, this being the case, she has relocated her gallery to Serena Montecito, where her art now resides in two buildings, rather than the single build described below. All SLurls in this article have been updated to reflect the new location. My thanks to Milly for letting me know.

I last wrote about Milly Sharple’s extraordinary art in October 2017. At that time, she had – as a result of a huge amount of support  / demand from friends – established a new gallery, after previously announcing she was retiring from Second Life art. A lot has happened since then; for one thing, her gallery of that time has since closed. Gone it may be, but the opportunity to experience Milly’s art as she would like it to be witnessed, has not.

“The old gallery never felt quite right to me,” Milly told me recently, “and I have re-opened a new version of Fractal Insanity – The Art of Milly Sharple at a new venue.”

Fractal Insanity – The Art of Milly Sharple

The new gallery, located in a sky sphere, showcases the rich diversity of Milly’s art. There is – obviously – her marvellously captivating fractal art, both static and animated.  The new gallery, with it predominant use of black and grey, brings these pieces sharply to life, the subdued wall panels and dark block walls bring out the rich depth of colour and contrast of these pieces.

Fractal Insanity – The Art of Milly Sharple – Woman With Cat – quite possibly my favourite of Milly’s pieces on display

Alongside of the fractal art, are pieces of Milly’s work in mixed media. These are also brought into vivid focus by the finish applied to the gallery building.

As much as I am a deep admirer of Milly’s Fractal art – I have to admit her mixed media work is as equally stunning – and quite possibly more enchanting. The use of colour, coupled with the almost etching-like finish to many of the pieces brings brings them to life in a remarkable way. Whether floral representations, animal studies or pieces with a more fantasy edge, or presenting an image such as a portrait through the use of fractals, these pieces are utterly captivating.

The gallery building offer two floors of display place – the ground floor and a mezzanine above. However, this is not all there is on offer, as Milly explains.

“I have closed the roof in to make more space and also added a sky sphere … There are teleporters in the gallery that go to the two extra levels.”

These teleport disks can be found on both of the lower levels of the building. At the time of my visit, the first of the upper levels – reached by teleporting to Rooftop 1 or Rooftop 2 – focused on Milly’s fractal work; the sphere above it, a selection of Milly’s animated etchings, which again should not be missed during a visit.

Finished with 3D art items, some by Milly herself and others modified by her, Fractal Insanity – The Art on Milly Sharple is a very welcome expansion of a public display of Milly’s art, and one which should be seen to be fully appreciated. One which, once seen, is liable to draw the discerning admirer of art back to it time and again. For those who enjoy their time visiting, kitty would appreciate a donation via his jar alongside the coffee machine.

Fractal Insanity – The Art of Milly Sharple

Congratulation to Milly on her new gallery – and my thanks to her for extending an invitation to visit.

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