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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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.

SLurl Details

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

Ambre Singh: artistic expressionism in Second Life

Ambre Singh Gallery, April 2021

Far back in January 2021, I received an invitation from Ambre Singh to visit her gallery spaces located overhead at Noir’WEN City – and I offer my apologies to her for only now getting around to doing so.

A Second Life resident for getting towards 14 years, Ambre is an artist who uses photography, art, a sense of humour and generally provocative in the manner it prods the grey matter between the ears to start churning thoughts.

Thematically, much of her work might be considered Adult, with images not suitable for the work environment; it mixes direct Second Life photography – notably her avatar, the characters she creates and her friends – with mixed media pieces that combine physical world at and images with elements created within Second Life mixed with classical works both to tell her own stories and / or in celebration of their original artists.

Ambre Singh Gallery, April 2021

Her gallery space at Noir’WEN offer two wings set within a warehouse environment, one of which is devoted to a permanent exhibition entitled The Pink Dildo, and the other offers a broader mix of Ambre’s work, including the opportunity to rez past exhibitions – a novel idea I’ve admittedly never come across before.

The Pink Dildo (you can take it from the title this is an exhibit that can be labelled NSFW!) is a clever, humour-filled but ultimately thought-provoking view “of the role of women in the development of human societies”.  Within it, Ambre presents a collection of images that combine original in-world art with clever re-workings of classical pieces of art to take us on a journey from pre-history through to modern times, each piece generally including a pink dildo in some fashion, together with a short descriptive text offered in English and French.

Ambre Singh: The Pink Dildo, April 2021

While it might be easy to dismiss these pieces as a means of simple titillation, to do so would be to miss the point. Whilst the entire exhibition includes adult themes wrapped in humour (just read the artist’s biography placed within the exhibit for evidence of the latter), there is a subtext within The Pink Dildo that might best be described as commentary on the (largely patriarchal) recording of history, whilst also offering personal views on modern society (notably on the upper floor of the hall), not all of which we may ascribe to or agree with, but which nevertheless give good pause for thought.

What is particularly – for me – engaging about this exhibition is the manner in which Ambre has taken classic pieces of art by Rembrandt, Poynter, da Vinci, Bouguereau, Jacques-Louis David, JW Waterhouse, Litovchenko and others and re-interpreted them as a part of her story. I also appreciate the topping and tailing of this exhibit through the use of a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey at the start, and a sideways reference to Musk & SpaceX and their plans to colonise Mars. 

Ambre Singh, The Pink Dildo, April 2021

The interjection of her avatar into classical works of art can also be found in the second wing of Ambre’s gallery, although with art that is more nude in tone and adult in theme, so again should be considered NSFW. Here, within the upper floor rezzer area, one can appreciate her take on pieces by JW Waterhouse, Boucher, Courbet, Draper and more, as well as collections of her avatar portraiture work, a neat little musical quiz challenging people to match the images with the song titles and more.

Engaging, rich in content, story and sub-text, Ambre Singh’s art is well worth visiting – and extended to a current exhibition in Noir’WENs ground-level gallery as well – something I’ll be returning to in the future.

Ambre Singh Gallery, April 2021

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Sheba’s mystical art in Second Life

Janus III Gallery: Sheba Blitz – Into the Mystic

When Sheba Blitz first arrived in Second Life, it was without any preconceived ideas about displaying her work.  However, after encountering the vibrant arts communities that exist across the platform she decided to give exhibiting her work a try – and I, for one am glad that she did.

Hailing from Australia, Sheba has studied art in a variety of styles over the years, gaining several diplomas in the process. However, throughout her time as an artist, she has found focus in painting mandalas – which she does so quite exquisitely.

Janus III Gallery: Sheba Blitz – Into the Mystic

For those unfamiliar with it, the mandala (literally meaning “circle” in Sanskrit) is a symbol with very deep religious, spiritual and even political meaning. It may be employed in spiritual guidance, focusing the attention of practitioners and adepts, as a means of establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction. Mandalas are particularly used in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Shintoism. They also have new age symbolism, and were regarded by Jung as a means to explore “the fourfold nature of the psyche”.

I first encountered Sheba’s work five years ago and was immediately captivated. Specialising in painting quarternity mandalas, she works with gouache, acrylics and metallic paints on either canvas or paper, drawing on sources such as music, books, astrology and tarot symbolism as her inspiration. The finished pieces are all intricately beautiful, endlessly geometric, generally perfectly symmetric, and rich in symbolism.

Janus III Gallery: Sheba Blitz – Into the Mystic

All of this creative, spiritual beauty can currently be seen at the Janus III Gallery on Chuck Clip’s Sinful Retreat, where Sheba is exhibiting a selection of her work entitled Into the Mystic.

Across the two floors of the gallery one can find the most meticulous pieces of art that are utterly captivating.

Whenever I witness Sheba’s art and and consider the work that went into each piece, I cannot help but be put in mind of dul-tson-kyil-khor (mandala of coloured powders) in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. Like those painstakingly constructed sand paintings, there is an inherent balance within Sheba’s paintings in terms of symmetry and harmony that lifts the spirit whilst also speak to the depth of focus on the part of the artist.

Like the work of Tibetan monks, Sheba’s art is rich in iconography that combines geometric shapes and spiritual symbols.

However, unlike the Tibetan sand painting, which is intentionally impermanent, each piece ritualistically destroyed and used as an offering to water and life once the meditation of its creation is complete, Sheba’s art endures well beyond its creation. In this, while sand painting might speak to the impermanence of life and the cycle of creation, Sheba’s art reflects the enduring nature and balance of the cosmos around us.

Janus III Gallery: Sheba Blitz – Into the Mystic

This is art for which images on a page simply do not do justice. Each piece is so rich in form and intricate in detail, Sheba’s work deserves to be seen and appreciated first hand whether you are drawn to the spiritual symbolism of the mandala or simply drawn to art for its beauty and geometry So do take time to drop into the Janus III Gallery before this exhibition ends later in the month.

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Cica’s Stars in Second Life

Cica Ghost; Stars

Thursday March 4th saw the opening of Stars by Cica Ghost. Occupying a Homestead region, Stars is once again an interactive setting that makes for fun exploration.

Caught under a blanket of starfish-like stars (make sure you have your viewer set to use the Shared Environment), the setting has something of a Steampunk feel to it in general appearance, incorporating many echoes of Cica’s past installations waiting for those who are familiar with her work.

Cica Ghost, Stars

The town is laid out in something of a grid, with the landing point pretty much at its centre. laid out around it are squares and road and assorted buildings, some of which stand as a frame for the setting, other of which can be entered into and explored, or offer places to sit and chat.

Some of these houses resemble the tall slender houses found in the likes of Burlap and Sunny Day, or echo the look of those seen within Bridge and Donkeys or seen painted in Rocks and Drawn Town. Among these are fish and seas creatures, some hanging from pipes or forming strange wheeled sculptures and vehicles or sitting at rooftop decoration;  whilst very different in tone, these nevertheless tickle fond memories of Under the Sea, while echoes of places like Little Town and more also await discovery.

Cica Ghost, Stars

Which is not to say Stars is not a unique environment – it very much is; but these little touches, which include Cica’s stick man on his bicycle still fighting the wind and the rabbits from from Burlap forming a part of the town’s puppet theatre and the keys on the wall of the house interior, add depth to the setting that can be very personal to those who have followed Cica’s work.

This is a place that introduces new characters as well, notably in the form of the wheeled, tin hatted robots rolling back and forth on their single wheel, or offering music to dance to under the stars. And throughout the entire setting are places for visitors to dance or sit or ride (from swings to vehicles) and simply have fun together. And when exploring, do be sure to check the terrain covering – it offers some  art of its own.

Cica Ghost, Stars

Rounded with a quote by Charles A. Beard (or Ralph Waldo Emerson, depending on your choice of attribution, together with Martin Luther King Jr., and others in a slightly altered form), Stars is another richly engaging place to explore – do be sure to have the local stream enabled when exploring! And should you find them as engaging as I did, Cica’s robots at their friends can be purchased from the store in one corner of the region.

SLurl Details

  • Stars (Meropis, rated Moderate)

Fun and thoughts on Cica’s Planet in Second Life

Cica Ghost: Planet
What if I’m a princess on another planet? And no one on this planet knows it?

The above quote, from The Carrie Diaries by American author Candace Bushnell, is a musing on the part of the book’s protagonist, the young Carrie Bradshaw (the book is a prequel to Carrie’s later adventure in Sex and the City) as she endures high school in Cranberry, Connecticut and dreams of life in New York City and all she might become / escape once she has moved there to become an aspiring author, and left behind her provincial origins.

It is also a quote that Cica Ghost uses in her latest installation, which opened on Tuesday, January 26th, 2021 – and in using it, she offers perhaps the most perfect encapsulation of what Second Life can be to those of us invested in their digital world.

Cica Ghost: Planet

As such, Planet is a location that can be enjoyed on two levels. It can be taken simply as a whimsical and fun setting, filled with Cica’s usual interactive touches that always make a visit to one of her installations a pleasure; or it can be combined with the quote that accompanies it to offer the opportunity for deeper reflections on life and Second Life.

Caught under a mauve sky where the clouds have been strung into ripples that wash gently along under the light of a distant white star, this is a strange world filled with creatures of strange origins. Some are capable of walking, others of flying and some of slithering, whilst others appear to be rooted to the spot, almost as if they have been extruded out of the ground.

Not that any are particularly threatening – rather the reverse in fact, many of them standing in little groups or close enough together as if to be conversing. They are certainly at ease within their otherworldly landscape and not in the least fazed by the little flying saucers a that hover and flit around certain points over the landscape like little mechanical bugs.

Cica Ghost: Planet

Nor are the locals particularly bothered by the fact an very Earthly-looking rocket ship has landed among them, or that a human has quote literally established a homestead in their midst, one complete with cat potted plants and very Earthly looking grass and tree.

It is here that setting and quote intertwine to add that deeper layer of potential and reflection to Planet. Within her dome, the girl has arrived from another planet, a place where she might well be a princess, but here is just another sharing the land with her strange neighbours, none of them truly aware of the status or otherwise she might hold back in wherever she came from.

Cica Ghost: Planet

Thus, her presence might be said to mirror our own in Second Life. Here we can be anything we desire, unencumbered by who we are in the physical world – be it living the life of a princess or a pauper, so to speak; we can be accepted simply for how we are perceived through our looks and actions and activities within this virtual realm, free from all that might otherwise encumber us.

And, just as importantly, the reverse is true: here we can be that princess or that dragon or an elf warrior on a quest, or a starship captain seeking brave new worlds, or even a tinkerer and inventor of Things, or can simply escape cares and pressures and sit in the digital shade of a tree or sail the digital tides of a broad sea, and no-one around us in the physical world need be any the wiser as to who we become, where we travel, who we meet or the adventures on which we might embark and discoveries we make.

Cica Ghost: Planet

Whether you are looking to simply visit and have a little fun drifting around in little flying saucers or dancing among the aliens or drafting weightlessly within a space ship, or whether you are tickled into stepping through he door that Cica opens to deeper, broader thoughts about life, expression, the power of the imagination and the freedoms presented by SL, Planet makes for an ideal visit, and should remain open through to around mid-to-late February.

SLurl Details

  • Planet by Cica Ghost (Van, rated Moderate)