The Stolen Child in Second Life

The Itakos Project, The Stolen Child – CybeleMoon

CybeleMoon (Hana Hoobinoo) is renowned for her fabulous mixed-media art. It carries within it a richness of tone, a mixing and balance of light and shade, a depth of symbolism and – most poignantly – a wonderful framing of narrative that makes any exhibition of her work in Second Life utterly unmissable.

All of this richness, depth and framing is on display in full force at The Itakos Project, curated by Akin Alonzo, where Cybele presents The Stolen Child, a series of 15 images presented within a glade-like setting caught in the enfolding arms of ancient ruins, which has been specially built for the exhibit by Akim. Reached via the teleport door in the main foyer of the gallery, this setting is not merely a backdrop for Cybele’s art, it is part of the overall theme of the exhibition, designed through its form and lighting to increase the feeling of immersion in in the story the exhibition presents.

The Itakos Project, The Stolen Child – CybeleMoon

This story is not offered as a linear tale; rather, there is a central strand of theme running through both setting and images. This strand leads us through Cybele’s images, linking them indirectly and without necessary order (although one is suggested, somewhat by the circular placement of the pieces) as they form windows, if you will, into the underlying proposition of the exhibition; a proposition a proposition Cybele explains thus:

Fairies are not benevolent creatures at all, attracted by the strength and vitality of mankind, they kidnap children and especially newborns, or seduce (for the purpose of kidnapping) beautiful girls and boys.

She continues by noting the myth of the fairy lies routed in a times past need to rationalise the death of a child, be it at birth or with a short span of months or years thereafter: that the fairies had stolen the child away from a otherwise sad destiny. Within this weaving of fable, there was also menace: children with autism, depression, or other mental health issues were at times considered to have lost their souls as a result of eating fairy food.

The Itakos Project, The Stolen Child – CybeleMoon

Thus through Cybele’s art were are presented with a series of poignant scene sit within the framework of the dome of a night’s sky – the time when fairies might be abroad more than during the hours of daylight – and within a symbolic ring of ancient walls and arches. The latter carries with it a echo of the fairy ring of mushrooms that act as doorways to the fairy realms, or the idea of the faery castle hidden from mortal eyes by the form of a hill, and into which abducted children might be taken should they not take care.

That central strand running through the images – and the exhibition as a whole – takes the form of The Stolen Child, written in 1886 by by William Butler Yeats, who was also captivated by the entire mythology of faeries in Irish mythology. Through the words of his poem, we witness the bewitching song of the faerie folk, calling to children, tempting them away…

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

The Itakos Project, The Stolen Child – CybeleMoon

Cybele takes lines and words contained within the poem as titles for each of her pieces. Thus, each image forms that window I mentioned above, a glimpse into a scene, one that is often double-edged. On the one hand, it may seem innocent and rich in joy or tranquillity: young folk running through a meadow; a view across rolling hills at twilight while sheep graze; the innocence of blowing into a dandelion. On the other, the titles of the pieces hint at the darker element of fae intent: the stealing away of children, of leaving mothers bereft, to deny the young that chance to see sheep grazing at twilight or know the comforts of home and hearth, their young lives having been swept away with the promise of dances by moonlight in places forbidden by their ever-anxious parents.

To further accompany the exhibition, Cybele also provides a short story, together with additional images, that can be found on her (always enchanting) website. Also presented with the story and images is an audio recording of the marvellous Loreena McKennitt, who put the words of The Stolen Child to music. I’ll leave you with a video of the song from one of Ms. McKennitt’s live performances, and the note that this is a truly engaging and evocative exhibition; rich in narrative and atmosphere, and absolutely not to be missed.

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  • The Itakos Project (ATL, rated Moderate) – remember to take the teleport door in the gallery’s foyer to reach the exhibition!
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Portraits and narratives in Second Life

The Itakos Project: Soul Portrait Collection Summer Black & White Edition – Saveria Rossini

The Itakos Project, operated and curated by Akim Alonzo, has undergone an expansion since my last visit (see: Soul Portraits in Second Life), with a new halls  – the Blue Pavilion – and an extension to the Black Pavilion, as well as a new platform gallery that will officially be opening a new exhibition on August 30th.

The Blue Pavilion sees a follow-on to Soul Portraits linked to above, with Soul Portrait Collection: Summer Black & White Edition. As with the first edition this features images from selected photographers who have submitted their work to the Itakos Project Flickr group. However, as the title implies, this selection features black-and-white images, and which had been submitted by Angelina Corral, Aver Osk, Aimee Cristole, Carolyn Diesel, Gabi Ka, Edie Horngold, Latia Lavecchia, -K- Lynagh, Ktsyakumi Izabela Navarathna, Saveria  Rossini and Sunset Theas.

The Itakos Project: Soul Portrait Collection Summer Black & White Edition – Sunset Theas

Further, and in difference to the first edition, the images here are not restricted to head-and-shoulder images; they instead offer broader perspectives – full body shots, those with more of a background in view, and so on.

This, to me, adds a further depth to this black & white edition; the range of images helps to keep things fresh as one moves through the hall, while the broader perspectives evident in some of the images offer a broader canvas on which the imagine can write its own story to accompany each image. Which is not to say those that do offer more direct facial studies are any the less fascinating; quite the reverse in fact. All of the pieces offered here are remarkable for their depth and ability to stir the imagination into framing a story around them.

The extended Black Pavilion offers the second of two exhibitions by Akim that are currently on display at the gallery (the other being The Matrix, which I reviewed here). And I confess from the start that Akim is fast becoming one of my favourite artists in Second Life.

The Itakos Project: Portraits And Some Other Circumstances – Akim Alonzo

In Portraits and some Other Circumstances he presents a series of colour and black and white female avatar studies. Originally displayed in June 2019, the collection has been expanded by Akim, and includes direct portrait studies and a series of “other circumstances”, which present more sensual studies (that feature nudity, and so should be considered NSFW).

These are pieces that again offer scenes suggestive of wider stories. In this, some offer direct hooks to a possible narrative – such as The Model was Impressed by the Old Camera, which places a faceless, naked subject alongside a camera and adds a very subtle twist of double entendre via the title. Others are more subtle, such as Imagine (Looking away), with its suggestion of the things around us we might so easily miss – or the suggestion of things we are never intended to see, but are nevertheless with us – such as angels who watch over us. Throughout all of these pieces there is a subtle use of pose, eye positioning, model placement soft focus, and so on, that gently draw us into each image, asking us not so much to view it, but explore it and consider what might lie beyond each frame.

The Itakos Project: Portraits And Some Other Circumstances – Akim Alonzo

Within the White Pavilion, visitors can find The Edgy World of M, featuring a collection by Maloe Vansant.

In this collection Maloe offers a series of pieces – most of them, I believe, self-studies – designed to tell us about “an unusual and hidden side of her imaginary world.” Most of them are a mix of dark juxtaposed with vivid, rich colour in what is both a powerful contrast and naturally symbiotic balance.

The Itakos Project: The Edgy World of M – Maloe Vansant

This contrast / symbiosis seems to also reflect an underlying narrative with these pictures – each of which might be considered a passage lifted from a story – the colour perhaps representing the “normality” of a life as it is presented to others – a mask if you will; and the black representing what lies hidden behind those same masks of normality: the hidden desires and thoughts – some of which may themselves be dark in nature (the the references to death and the horrors of removing masks).

These various elements come together quite dramatically, drawing us into that edgy world of M, a place that is rich in tone, theme, and image, and which is also at its heart, both personal (on at least two levels – Maloe’s and the observer’s) and intensely primal.

The Itakos Project: The Edgy World of M – Maloe Vansant

Also on display at the time of writing is Simply Dreaming, a further remarkable collection of art by Awesome Fallen, and which I wrote about in April 2019.

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Soul Portraits in Second Life

Itakos Project: Soul Portraits

Currently open at the Itakos Project, curated by Akim Alonzo, is an exhibition entitled Soul Portraits. Featuring the work of ten individual photographers and one couple, it’s an exhibition that evokes – for me at least – mixed feelings.

To frame the exhibition, it is easiest to quote the introductory note card:

With this exhibition we celebrate 4 years of life of the Soul Portraits-Itakos Art Gallery group on the Flickr platform, with more than 5700 photos published by about 250 photographers registered in the group. A collective exposition that focuses on female portraits, and the selected artists all have a particular and personal eye on the emotions that a second life avatar can express. Feminine looks that touch, sometimes deep and inextricable, or tender, half-closed or hidden eyes, looks that wander beyond or that stare at you, questioning your soul.

Itakos Project: Moloe Vansant

The selected participating artists for the exhibition are: Mr. S, Sonic, Roberta Barineaux, Miuccia Klaar, Katia Lavecchia, Charlie Namiboo, Izabela Navarathna, Maloe Vansant, Lula Yue, and the pairing of CFaleny and Moki Yuitza, who between them have a total of 30 images on display, with the majority having three images apiece within the exhibition.

I will admit that in viewing the works, I tended to have something of a personal bias; three of the artists participating in Soul Portraits – Mr. S, Charlie Namiboo and Moloe Vansant – never cease to fascinate me with their work; they have the ability to frame entire stories within their photographs I find incredibly alluring. As so it is the case here, where I immediately gravitated towards Maloe’s four pieces as they formed pair bracketing the three from Mr. S at one end of the gallery’s  Grey Pavilion.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonso

Which is not to say narrative isn’t present in any of the other pieces on offer; far from it; there are stories or threads of stories to be found within many of the pieces in the exhibit; and those that don’t perhaps carry a full narrative do convey emotions and provoke a subjective response – which as the liner notes indicate, is the goal of the exhibition.

However, I do confess to finding the similarity in approach to many of the images – a close focus on head shots sans broader background – coupled with their close proximity to one another, for me tended to lessen the overall impact of individual pieces.

But this aside, Soul Portraits is a further engaging exhibition at Itakos Project.

Itakos Project: Mr. S

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Water and a Matrix: reflections on life by Akim Alonzo

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Water

It may seem a little unfair presenting two reviews of exhibitions at the same gallery space in such short order, but the fact is the Itakos Project, curated by Akim Alonzo, is currently hosting exhibitions by Awesome Fallen and Akim himself which I personally feel should not be missed. Having covered Awesome’s Simply Dreaming just a day ago (see Awesome Fallen at the Itakos Project in Second Life), with this piece, I’m diving into the what might be referred to as “an exhibition of two halves”, both of which feature collections of Akim’s own work.

You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

Ansel Adams, The Camera, 1980

Ansel Adam’s words have been the foundation of Akim’s approach to photography, and of the Itakos Project as a whole – and this is clearly demonstrated in both of the displays of art he has on display within the gallery at the time of our visits.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Water

Split between the gallery’s entrance level and the floor above, and occupying the Black Pavilion area, Water is a collection of 12 images focused on the titular subject. However, these are not simply studies of seascapes, coasts or similar. Rather, they are examinations of our complex relationship with water. We are conceived into water, life came from water, we are water; it both defines us and stands as something of a metaphorical image of human life and relationships, all of which Akim sums up in his liner notes on the exhibition.

We are Water and we can not live without it. Sometimes we are like islands lost in the sea, or we float in lush archipelagos full of life. Water brings with it the meaning of survival, it is the immaterial substance of the flowing time, it is the depth of the human soul, of the vital emotions, of joy and fear, fury and tranquillity, of solitude and of love. Water moves me, I am Water.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Water

Thus, through this mix of monochrome and soft colour images we are offered the most stunning of image poems, each of which tells something of that complex relationship. These are pieces of such depth and narrative, they cannot be taken at a single glance; time is required to fully absorb their beauty and hear their myriad whispers. But that said, even looked a briefly, each speaks volumes about Akim’s eye and mind as a photographer; there is little doubting each piece has been influenced by the full breadth and depth of his artistry and all that has influenced it.

The Matrix, the second “half” of Akim’s overall exhibition on display, is located on the floor above the entrance level, within the Orange Pavilion. Its found influence is perhaps more obvious – that of the Matrix movie franchise; however, like Water, it is actually quite complex in foundation and presentation, as Akim again indicates in his liner notes:

These photos are loosely based on the cult movie The Matrix, which I loved a lot. A metaphor for a world of people trapped in a simulated, virtual reality that has many aspects in common with the Second Life world. So I imagined, listening to the Matrix soundtrack, avatars and life scenes in second life revealed in their intrinsic background network … of which we avatars do not realise.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Matrix

So it is that we are presented with nine images, again rich in metaphor and narrative. Framed by the ideas of the movies, as given form by the soundtracks, they also encompass an observer’s view of Second life coupled with a user’s innate understanding of the platform, with broader influences such as dream echoes and, stirred into the mix.

As with Water, these are pieces rich in story and interpretation. Within them lie questions of reality and identity, and the riddle of worlds within worlds – the Chinese Boxes to which Akim refers –  which not only extend inwards through the images, but also outwards to encompass each of us as we view them.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Matrix

In this, the reference to the Matrix is taken a stage further: not only are these images an interpretation of the films as layered within the virtual realm of Second Life – they actually reflect the central idea of the film: that were are all in fact unwittingly operating within a virtual realm. We are thus as much a part of each of these images, a further layer, if you will, that is observed from somewhere beyond us, as much as we are observers of each image.

However, there is something else here as well; a more innate statement on our relationship with Second Life itself. Within these pictures is a subtle reminder that, no matter how hard we might try to distance self from character within SL, no matter what the roles we play in-world, the backstories we build; the fact remains that facets of our own natures, our own identities, will be impinged on those characters. They are inevitably a projection of self into the virtual. What’s more, their daily encounters and experiences within the virtual realm equally reflect and inform upon our physical selves. Thus, we have a genuinely visceral intertwining between the “real” and the “virtual”.

Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo – Matrix

Together or individually, Water and The Matrix are two absorbing, evocative and engaging selections of art by a master photographer, artist and storyteller.

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Awesome Fallen at the Itakos Project in Second Life

Itakos Project: Simply Dreaming

In 2017, Akim Alonzo launched the Itakos Project as a Linden Endowment for the Arts installation with the aim of presenting the work of SL photographers who, through their images, engage upon story-telling or presenting the ideas of stories, or who seek to present beauty and emotion through their study of the avatar and the worlds around it (see The Itakos Project in Second Life). However, I confess I lost track of the gallery after its 6-month LEA run came to an end. So an invitation to view a new exhibition at the gallery – now in its own location – offered the perfect reason to resume my acquaintance with it.

Simply Dreaming is a remarkable selection of pieces by Awesome Fallen, an SL artist whose work I’ve always been drawn to for her richness of narrative and opening of the imagination. With this exhibit, she presents twelve images on the subject of dreams and dreaming, located in the gallery’s entrance level Grey Pavilion. Surreal, marked by the use of heavy and dark colours and tones, these are perhaps images of the darker side of dreams and dreaming.

Itakos Project: Simply Dreaming

Each is  – and I use this term deliberately, despite the dark tones and subject presented – a beautiful representation of an instance of a dream; the moment of recollection we can all have when awakening from a period of REM sleep, a single frame of our dreaming thought processes captured in the lens or the mind, or which is retained and held subconsciously and returns to us at the first moment of waking in the morning.

In this, the surrealist nature of the images is entirely fitting on at least two levels. The first is that dreams are always linear or logical; as the brain processes its way through our sleep, cataloguing, filing, recalling – or doing whatever really is going on in our dream state – we can become observers to those processes without really being aware of what if going on or why. Thus the mental images that we regard as dreams can be both vivid and ethereal; images lying one over the other, some clear and fresh or vibrant in their emotion (if not necessarily in their colour), others faded and faint. Within their mixing we oft encounter surreal views and disjointed images or flashes of thought that are sharded and broken or at least confused.

Itakos Project: Simply Dreaming

So it is with this images that were are presented with contrasts and juxtapositions: faces split; images that offer a clear view of a subject and a shadowed reflection in the darkness; figures of menace; faces lost; scenes that might be from the day’s activities but turned by the churn of mental processes into scenes that aren’t quite right; negative thoughts and feeling that have become personified. A tumult  of emotions and thoughts given form to become surreal stories without clear narrative except the emotional response they create.

The surrealism approach is also fitting when one considers the origins of this form of art – that of developing painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. The surrealist movement embraced Freud’s work with free association, dream analysis, and the unconscious. Thus, by presenting these images in a surrealist form, Awesome not only maintains the movement’s idealism, she actually offers a visual treatise on the nature of the movement itself, literally taking the art back to its roots through the presentation of dreams as scenes.

Itakos Project: Simply Dreaming

There is more layering to be found within these images. Take for example the stanza-like line repeated in each of them: On the canvas of your soul, with the tips of my fingers, drawing smiles with the colour of my feelings… Not only does this provide a thread that draws all twelve images into a tapestry; it also suggests that through these images Awesome is offering us windows into her dreams – and into our own. In this latter regard, it is perhaps tempting to see these images as perhaps autobiographical, the capturing of personal dreams; this may be the intent, but equally all twelve pieces speak to our own psyches, offering a means for our subconscious to respond. Hence why, perhaps, on seeing these works we might all feel an odd sense of familiarity and recognition as we look upon them.

A fascinating and absorbing collection.

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The Itakos Project in Second Life

The Itakos Project: Tutsy Navarathna

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera,” American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams  wrote in The Camera. “You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” It’s  a thought-provoking statement which encompasses the richness and depth of photography as an expression of art and artistry; suggestive that photographs can be part of a wider, deeper journey through life.

It is also a quote Akim Alonzo has chosen to encapsulate The Itakos Project, which is now open through until the end of 2017. A gallery complex of three buildings arranged around a courtyard, with the main building flanked by two pavilions and facing an events space across the courtyard.  The name for the project has, like the quote from Adams, been carefully selected, echoing as it does the name Ithaca, the Greek island and legendary home of Odysseus. In doing so, it also evokes the idea of a journey  – or, as Akim himself notes, a dream or the search for beauty and emotion.

The Itakos Project: Akim Alonzo

The aim of the project is to present the work of SL photographers who, through their work, engage upon story-telling or presenting the ideas of stories, or who seek to present beauty and emotion through their study of the avatar and the worlds around it.

For the initial exhibition, Akim presents his own stories told through his images and work within the project’s Blue Pavilion, while in the Red Pavilion focuses on Maloe Vansant and Paola Mills under the joint title of The Itakos Collection. Within the main gallery structure can be found Subtle Scent of Solitude, by Imani Nayar and The Dancing Serpent by Kate Bergdorf. Also to be found in the foyer area of the main building is a teleport doorway leading to a separate platform wherein can be found The Venal Muses,  an exhibition by artist and videographer Tutsy Navarathna.

The Itakos Project: Maloe Vansant and Paola Mills

“Poets, painters, photographers, writers, film-makers and musicians were all inspired by the atmosphere of brothels and their venal muses,” Tutsy notes in introducing the exhibition. “Some, like Toulouse-Lautrec have even made it an essential part of their work. Painters like Degas, Manet, Derain, Munch, Ronault, Van Dongen, portray ladies of little virtue lounging on a sofa, on the rooms of their lupanar….”

Thus those taking the teleport to The Venal Muses find themselves in a softly lit setting with plush red walls, soft furnishings, all of which are redolent of the boudoir for a woman of easy virtue whilst also retaining the feel of a gallery. On the walls of the rooms and halls of this space hang striking images by Tutsy, rendered as painting and richly recalling the work of the artists he mentions.  It’s an evocative space, not just because of the inherent depth within the images, but because the design of the space casts the visitor perhaps into the role of voyeur or – on a deeper level – patron, within some of the scenes presented.

The Itakos Project: Tutsy Navarathna

All of the exhibitions on display offer much to those visiting, but with its richness of setting and uniqueness artistic expression, both of which reach directly into the subject matter, The Venal Muses is perhaps the most captivating of the current exhibitions currently on display at The Itakos Project. From the project’s notes, I understand feature artists at the gallery will change on a monthly basis while the upper floor of the main building will be devoted to displaying work by artists enrolled in the Soul Portraits – Itakos Art Gallery in Second Life Flickr group.

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