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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