The Way of the Sun in Second Life

Ribong Gallery Artspace 3583: The Way of the Sun

The Way of the Sun is an intriguing art installation by Bleu Oleander that is currently open at Ribong Gallery Artspace 3583, curated by  San (Santoshima). It is an installation that that offers multiple aspects of metaphor and narrative.

In THE WAY OF THE SUN, I explore themes of temple building, pilgrimage, worship, reflection and transcendence. Over the long human history, there are examples of humans worshipping the Sun and elements of nature, and building temples to access the divine.

– Bleu Oleander, on The Way of the Sun

Ribong Gallery Artspace 3583: The Way of the Sun

From the arrival point, a large enclosed area intentionally suggestive of darkness, visitors are encouraged to read a poem celebrating the work of the temple builders, before following an arrow pointing to where a tower of light rises into the void, a ramp within it offering the way up. This in turn leads the way to a golden platform on which sits a high temple attempting to reach clouds that seem to form mystical patterns whilst turned to a burnished yellow by the Sun above them.

The metaphors within in this are clear – the passage from the landing point to the golden platform representing pilgrimage; the move from darkness to light representing the desire to achieve spirituality / enlightenment, the climb through the tower representing both the raising of temples and our need to ascend / transcend after or during life, all of which is further underlined by the presence of the figures within the installation, who stand as if lost within the lower level, but have arms raised in exultation within the temple.

Ribong Gallery Artspace 3583: The Way of the Sun

Also to be found within this is the personal desire to achieve enlightening, to improve ourselves – not materially or religiously, but mentally and personally; the transfiguration through self-reflection and mental training through the likes of meditation within the “temples of the mind”.

Similarly, the temple stands as both a literal place of worship and as a symbol of the deep furrow temples, religion and ritual have played throughout human history. Even the Sun plays a dual role: the subject of so much of humankind’s worship and that actual essential giver of life to Earth, and the light that so often represent the achieving of self-awareness and personal transcendence.

Ribong Gallery Artspace 3583: The Way of the Sun

Drawing on ancient cultures from around the world, notably Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and mesoamerican – The Way of the Sun also has a modern twist within it that again links the cultural aspects of spirituality with the personal. A small teleport panel, when found, will carry the individual visitor down to a floatation tank and the opportunity of mediation and reflection.

All told a fascinating installation.

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Viewing a bare canvas in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: White Canvas

The latest exhibition to come to Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, is once again intriguing in subject. Put together at short notice by Diconay Boa Cross (Diconay Boa), White Canvas takes tattoos as its theme – a subject which itself is richly evocative, and has potential to be provocative in a number of ways.

The liner notes for the exhibition point to some of the many reasons we may get a tattoo. It’s also true that the tattoos we get can elicit a range of reactions: admiration, repulsion, acceptance, rejection, attraction – perhaps even predatory – and so on. Hence their evocative / provocative duality.

However, with the body as a living canvas, tattoos can also be genuine genre of art; the professional tattoo artist can wield their coil machine, use its needles and inks with the consummate skill of a skilled painter – and, with the right subject – produce pieces as exquisite as any Monet or challenging as any Picasso.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: White Canvas

Second Life brings this latter aspect of tattoo art particularly to life, and with a none of the pain that the recipient might otherwise have to face, and none of the limitations the artist may have to deal with as a result of fears over said discomforts. True, the tools of the trade might be GIMP, PhotoShop and an keyboard and / or tablet – but the results are the same.

A further advantage with tattoos in Second Life is that wee are able to change our tattoos as easily as changing a pair of earrings or cufflinks in the physical world. hence why, perhaps, that Diconay refers to tattoos jewellery for the Skin.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: White Canvas

The images presented in White Canvas bring to the fore the artistry involved in virtual tattoos – but this in turn echoes the beauty that can be achieved through the application of ink via needle. There is a lean towards the more exotic / erotic nature of tattoos in the framing of the images, which tends to separate them from the supplied liner notes for the exhibition rather than allowing the latter help to extend appreciation of the former.

However, this was an exhibition put together as something of a last-minute affair: Diconary and her SL partner Goodcross were actually due to exhibit at the gallery later in the year, but following an eleventh-hour drop-out, Diconary stepped into the breach so that Dido wasn’t faced with a missed exhibition, so allowances should be made for any apparent disconnects.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: White Canvas

Engaging and artistically framed, this is an exhibition that pays homage to tattoos in Second Life as a means for us to express ourselves and stands as a statement to the skill of a very talented avatar photographer.

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Monochrome tales in Second Life

Kondor White Gallery: The Art of Black and White – Rachel Magic

There is something about black and white images – particularly those taken within Second Life, for some reason – that I find particularly evocative.

Whilst colour images, carefully pre- or post-processed, hold a depth of attraction and speak clearly to the artistic talent of the photographer-artist responsible for their creation, monochrome images – even through they have likely been subjected to a similar level of pre- or post-processing – just seem to retain a degree of natural depth to them I am drawn to. So much so, that I’ve honestly played with the idea of using black-and-white illustrations in my travelogue blog posts.

Kondor White Gallery: The Art of Black and White – Rachel Magic

The richness of depth and narrative was brought home to me again while visiting the Kondor Art Centre, curated by Hermes Kondor, and specifically The Art of Black & White by Rachel Magic (LarisaLyn), which can be found throughout May at the Kondor White Gallery.

Rachel states of herself that she doesn’t like to lock herself into one visual style, and anyone who has witnessed her work will know this in the case. But there are two constants to her work: a richness of expression and a depth of story. All of this is true within the two floors of the gallery space hosting this exhibition.

Kondor White Gallery: The Art of Black and White – Rachel Magic

The lower floor focuses on landscapes captured from around Second Life. These offer unique views of their settings, be it through focus or techniques such as over-exposure / strength of contrast. These approaches present extracts of stories that our imaginations are invited to fill out – what lies at the end of the road; where are the owners of the bicycles – are they at work, relaxing on a beach beyond at the fence; who might be riding on the train caught through an archway…?

On the upper floor, Rachel presents a collection of monochrome avatar studies that, by their nature, paint a broader story, each one complete in it framing, angle and focus. These are all completely captivating, although I admit that Sweet Child of Mine, tucked into a corner – one of four smaller sized images in this collection.

Kondor White Gallery: The Art of Black and White – Rachel Magic

A further attraction of The Art of Black and White is a single artist presenting a split of landscape and avatar studies in a single exhibition when the “norm” among artists is to lean far more towards a focusing on one or the other rather than offering both in equal balance.

Enticing and engaging, The Art of Black and White will run through May and is well worth visiting.

Kondor White Gallery: The Art of Black and White – Rachel Magic

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Personal statements through art in Second Life

Sina Souza: Retrospective (Nitroglobus Roof Gallery)

Art is a powerful means of expression. Among its many abilities, it can enthral, delight, puzzle, confuse, evoke feelings, provoke reactions, entice, suggest, and tell stories. It can also be a vehicle by which life – either as a whole or just that of the artist – can be reflected, examined, quantified, dissected, displayed, and offered for commentary, be it by the audience witnessing it, or (again) by the artist.

Thus, both its production and in its viewing, art can be cathartic for artist and audience alike, and this is certainly true for two small but utterly engaging exhibitions I’ve visited over the last couple of days.

The first is by Traci Ultsch, an artist who has only relatively recently started exhibiting her art in Second Life (her first in-world exhibition being in November 2020), but is who has more than demonstrated that she is an artist who can both evoke and provoke through her work in the most compelling of ways and with a richness of narrative. These traits are fully on display at Mareea Farrasco’s IMAGOLand art spaces, which is currently hosting Overdose by Traci.

Traci Ultsch: Overdose (IMAGOLand Art Space)

A small collection of five large-format pieces that offer a double-dive into matters of addiction which are presented in such a way that both their design and their presentation to have much to say about the subject.

I say double-dive because, as Traci notes in her introduction to Overdose, this is an exhibition that can be viewed in two ways:

The first view is a personal one looking at my past experiences with drugs and drug use. Each image dealing with a drug I’ve been involved with. Heroin, LSD and amphetamines. Which directly led to several overdoses and the problems following that.
Another view deals more with the overdose of general life itself and the pressures that can lead to the need for escape.

Whether one takes the first or second of these interpretations, there is no doubt that the images presented in Overdose exhibit a raw, loud power that is reflective of both the often skewed view of reality and self that drugs can induce, together with the highs (e.g. sense of Godhood / power, moments of starling clarity) and lows (loss of self, blurring of reality and the unreal, paranoia and withdrawal), and the cacophony of life that seems to increasingly haul us towards an all-or-nothing series of extremes, from the constant outpouring of streamed television through to the demands of skewed politics, religion and more that demand everything be measured in terms of being either “for” or “against”, to the ever widening social gaps between classes. and so on.

Traci Ultsch: Overdose (IMAGOLand Art Space)

Placed within a confined space, even the size of the pictures speak to the pressures of being constantly immersed / unable to escape no matter where we turn. They are, in short overwhelming – as can be the allure of drugs and/or the demands of life; whilst the hospital beds floating in the air offer a further statement on both aspects of Overdose and its meaning.

Often when it comes to art, Retrospective is used in terms of presenting a selection of past works that speak to the artist’s life and work to date. However, for her exhibition that is currently taking place in Dido’s space at her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, Sina Souza uses the term and the pieces she is exhibiting to present a personal statement in a similar vein as might be seen within Traci’s – stories of personal struggles – as Sina similarly explains in introducing the exhibit:

[This] is an exhibition about struggles in my past, wrong decisions that I have made or experiences that I have gained.
It is a path between depression, strokes of fate and the problem of trusting others. But it’s not just a look back at what’s behind me, it is also a kind of self reflection, a step forward, a way to learn from mistakes and to grow from experiences. Sometimes we need to look back to look ahead.
Sina Souza: Retrospective (Nitroglobus Roof Gallery)

Thus we have personal, but again compelling pieces, the majority of which are presented in black-and-white, but all of which have a story contained within it – be it a message about the benefits of thinking outside of the box in whatever situation we find ourselves in, through to the weight of time that can often drag at us.

Richly evocative, powerful in narrative and deeply personal, these are two exhibitions in which the artists expose as much of themselves as they do their work. As such they are both deserving of being seen.

Sina Souza: Retrospective (Nitroglobus Roof Gallery)

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Dropping into Inspira Gallery in Second Life

Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Rachel Magic

I recently had occasion to drop into the Inspira Gallery of Art operated and curated by Mark Uladstron. At the time of my visit, the gallery was advertising itself as being in a “new waterside location” – although I have to admit, it is not a gallery I’d previously come across, so my apologies to Mark for not having done so sooner.

Occupying a two-storey building, the gallery also presents itself as a museum of art, combining exhibitions of art from both the physical world and created through the medium of Second Life, the Former coming in presenting reproductions of works by some of the most influential artists  – east and west – of their respective ages, These are all presented on the lower floor of the gallery, and at the time of my visit featured Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and Gu Kaizhi (Changkang).

This is the first gallery museum I’ve visited in quite a while that offers an audio tour of some of the works on display (the very first art museum I visited that did so was the Vordun back in 2016 – see: The Vordun: a new art experience in Second Life). Here, the audio tour is provided for the exhibits of Picasso’s and da Vinci’s works. It is facilitated by a HUD which should be offered as you enter the gallery, but if not, it can be obtained by clicking the blue globe at the reception desk, and while not a necessity for a visit, I would recommend using it.

Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Leonardo da Vinci

Once added to your screen, and unlike other tours of this nature, the HUD isn’t tied to a local experience, but is triggered by simply entering a hall where the tour in enabled. When you have done so, the palyback buttons are activated, and you just need to tap ESC on your keyboard a couple of ties to ensure your camera is free, then press the central Play / Stop toggle button in on the HUD. Doing so will trigger the HUD’s scripts and focus your camera on the first image within the exhibit  and trigger the associated audio track, together with a text display in local chat. In addition:

  • Clicking the “fast forward” or “rewind” buttons on the HUD will position your camera at the next painting in the sequence (or the previous, if moving back through an exhibit), again, triggering an audio / text exposition.
  • Clicking the Stop / Play button will re-centre the camera on your avatar, halting the audio / text. Providing you do not leave the hall, clicking the PLAY / STOP button again will centre the camera back on the last painting examined by the HUD and resume the audio / text expositions from there.
  • If you prefer, you can disable the text display or the audio by clicking either the Closed Caption or Audio toggle buttons directly under the main playback buttons.
  • Two further buttons will invite you to join the Inspire art group or receive a landmark to the gallery respectively.
Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Pablo Picasso

The audio files appear to be drawn from a variety of sources, with some sounding slightly artificial / electronic in nature. The alternate between various male and female speakers, and the provided information strikes a good balance between being informative whilst avoiding going on too long.

As the audio doesn’t extend to the hall featuring Gu Kaizhi’s work, traditional museum-style information displays are provided for in-world reading. It would perhaps be nice to see these information plinths also offering a note card when clicked to help thought who might find reading such in-world text difficult, but again the information that is provided in informative and adds to the experience of a visit.

A noted politician, painter, poet, calligrapher and author – he wrote three influential books on the theory of painting – Gu is most noted today for his silk scroll paintings, which form the focus on the exhibit at Inspira.

Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Gu Kaizhi

Stairs hidden behind the reception desk offer the way to the upper floor of the gallery, where two halls are devoted to Second Life artists. At the time of my visit, these were showing landscape images by the always captivating Rachel Magic (larisalyn) and pieces by Thomaz (Thomaz Blackburn). Between the halls is a cosy café / venue area, where images by Mark’s SL partner, Lisa Cruise (lisacruise), might be appreciated / purchased.

I will admit to being surprised that the reproductions of the images by da Vinci, Picasso and Gu are offered for sale. While I appreciate galleries, etc., in-world need to cover the cost of tier, seeing the images available via right-click buy did raise concerns (e.g. the potential for transgressing copyright on owned works or contravening any established Creative Commons (or other) licence that might be applicable, etc).

Inspira Gallery of At, April 2021 – Thomaz

However, this discomfiture duly noted, I will say that the Inspira Gallery of Art does makes for an engaging visit, and I particularly enjoyed becoming acquainted with Thomaz’s SL art, and the opportunity to see more of Rachel’s work on display.

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Motion and poetry in Second Life

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

Currently open at her gallery  space in Second Life is a new exhibition by Selen Minotaur. On the Move is a celebration of movement and life centred on Selen’s photography whilst combining setting, images, 3D art and the written word to present an environment which Selen describes thus:

The installation is meant to be a place out of time, where sculptures by Mistero Hifeng and Cherry Manga  blend into a décor between surreal and fantasy with a majestic dome (designed and built by Luxor Ragnarok AK moebius9), [displaying] unpublished photographs of mine, suspended like stars, and poetry by Andrée Chedid are projected on the floor.

– Selen Minotaur on On the Move

This is an environment in which visitors must have Advanced Lighting Model active (Preferences → Graphics → make sure Advanced Lighting Model is checked), and if your system can handle them, also enable shadows. Viewer should also be set to Use Shared Environment (World menu → Environment → Use Shared Environment).

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

With the viewer correctly set, On the Move can be reached either directly – as per the SLurls in this post -, or by clicking on the Map teleport globe outside of Selen’s main gallery (a similar sphere at On the Move will teleport visitors back to the gallery).

On arrival, I strongly recommend just moving slightly clear of the landing point and then allowing everything to rez / render fully so that the complete setting can be properly appreciated: the outer, water-borne space with the sculptures referenced by Selen, the inner garden and the dome with its display of art.All three are wrapped within the installation’s core themes, from the rippling of life-giving and sustaining water, through the symbolism of the violin and bow and music created by the movement of one upon the other, the timelessness of the cosmos as seen the the motion of the star-like motes that float through the garden, and more.

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

Within the dome, Selen displays her work in two ways: as a series of animated canvases circling slowing under the dome’s roof, and as panels placed around the dome between its columns which display the images in turn. These are pieces in which life and art are joyously celebrated, each conveying a perfect sense of motion which in turn offers a story, whilst mood is additionally set by projections of Andrée Chedid’s poems on the floor.

There is a timelessness through the installation that is captivating, a fusing of environment, lighting, framing through the use of water and the dome, and even the manner in which the art is presented through the slowly circling (and rotating) canvases.

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

Whilst double-sided, the twelve pieces carry something of a mystical edge to to them: they float in what might be regarded as a starlit sky that suggests they float like the signs of the zodiac, their slow circling marking the passage of time and the seasons, their rotation a metaphor for the more frequent passage of time as we experience it through the passage of days.

The opening of the exhibition featured a dance recital featuring Mist (Procrati Mistwallow) dancing to new compositions by Dandy Pianoman (pianoman1968) and supported by bass player Kali Beeswing that also encapsulated the core themes of life and motion within the exhibit. For those who were unable to attend, two video screens within the dome offer the opportunity to watch a machinima of the installation which includes aspects of the performance.

Selen Minotaur: On the Move, April 2021

Captivating, evocative and vibrant, On the Move is well worth immersing oneself in, both for the art and for the environment itself.

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  • On the Move (Selen’s Gallery, Royale, rated Moderate)