Moni and Traci at Midgard Gallery in Second Life

Midgard Gallery: Monique Beebe, February 2021

Midgard Gallery is – for me at least – a new arts venue I was delighted to be pointed towards by Traci Ultsch by way of a personal invitation to witness the new joint exhibition she has there.

Occupying an underground cavern within the Land of Thor – a place I’ll be discussing in greater detail in an upcoming article -, the Gallery is one of three within the region, and is currently featuring Crash Traci and Portraits and Other Things Monique Beebe. these are two very different in focus, but which share certain aspects and elements in the manner in which they challenge the viewer to look into them and consider what they are seeing, that mark them as complimentary to one another.

Midgard Gallery: Traci Ultsch, February 2021

Crash, located on the mezzanine floor of the gallery, takes as its inspiration English author J.G. Ballard’s 1973 novel Crash, later made into a 1996 film by the same title, written and directed by David Cronenberg. Both novel and film gained notoriety for their depictions of symphorophilia – the experience of intense sexual arousal as a result of stage-managing and watching a disaster – in their case, the focus being that of car crashes.

Given the nature of the subject matter, it might be tempting to dismiss Traci’s Crash as a further excuse for voyeuristic gratification; however, this would be a complete mistake. Whilst sexual undertones are apparent within the images (take, for example the placement of the lock to a car’s glove compartment in Bodies: framed within the outline of a female body, it clearly serve the purpose of a nipple), this is no mere excuse to revel, as it were, in the subject matter of the novel.

Midgard Gallery: Traci Ultsch, February 2021

Rather, these are pieces, each one carefully constructed and presented, that use the theme of the novel to explore the basic concepts of art: how we define it; whether something that is intrinsically repelling as symphorophilia or some other socially unacceptable outlook, contain within it a thread from which some form of more positive expression be drawn. At the same time, there is a personal dimension added to the piece, with Traci noting that in producing these pieces, she sought to address a situation from her own life.

Each image is presented as a layered, almost abstract collage, taking images captured from within Second Life, editing and transforming them in tone and look, then combining them one with another and / or with images of wrecked vehicles from the physical world. The result is a set of tableau pieces that can be looked upon purely as abstracted art and / or through the prism of the exhibitions theme, each one daring us to look again and again; their concept and content shifting, challenging our overall perception of each of them.

Midgard Gallery: Traci Ultsch, February 2021

On the ground floor of the gallery, Monique presents portraits and Other things, a baker’s dozen of utterly engaging avatar studies that in places mirror Traci’s work by offering us collage-like pieces to appreciate and perhaps decipher, whilst elsewhere presenting narrative and / or pieces linked by theme, such as the “rabbit” series along the back wall of the gallery.

Moni is an artist I’ve long admired for her ability to capture an entire story within a single frame, whilst often also challenging us to look beyond the surface of her art, be it erotic in nature or a seemingly straightforward facial portrait, or which at first glance appears to tell a simple story, and see what lies within. She has an innate ability to layer emotions and feelings with her work that I find utterly captivating.

Midgard Gallery: Monique Beebe, February 2021

A  good deal of this is to be found in the pieces within Portraits and Other Things. With Choas for example, we start with a collage featuring a human face that draws us to it simply as a piece to be appreciate for its sue of image, line, and colour. But it also contains hints of commentary on the chaotic nature of thought and mood, both of which can swirl and shift within us, such that the face we show the world around us is ever-changing; also within it stand the ideas of the chaotic bustle and churn of life around us, with all of these elements perhaps calling into question just who we are – as signified by the eyes of the central faces, the sockets becoming emptier as we scan from left-to-right.

Across the hall, Sadness offer a subtle layering of expression and condition to evoke the desired mood: that the subject is unhappy might appear to be evident from the forward tilt of her head and downcast eyes – although equally, this could be the prelude to a flick of the eyelids to provide an altogether different image, such as a coy glance into the camera lens. What actually gives this piece its emotional frame are the water droplets scattered across the subject’s face and their trails along her cheeks; they are as effective – if not more so – at conveying mood than had she been shown to be crying.

Midgard Gallery: Monique Beebe, February 2021

With two evocative displays of art from two of Second life’s most engaging artists, Midgard Gallery is well worth a February visit – and as noted, I’ll have more on the region as whole in an upcoming article.

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Moni’s Forbidden Fruit at Nitroglobus in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Forbidden Fruit

Monique “Moni” Beebe makes a further return to Dido Haas’ Nitroglobus Roof Gallery to mark the start of the year, with her latest exhibition Forbidden Fruit.

Moni is one of the most sensuous, evocative artist and – given she is generally the subject of her own work – models in Second Life, somthing I’ve noted in the past, as such I’ve been looking forward to seeing her latest exhibition since Dido tipped me the wink that Moni would be making a further return to Nitroglobus. She has the ability to present studies that are rich in mood, sensuality, nuance, story and sexuality – the latter without relying on being blatant provocation.  Rather, they are genuine works of art that would be fully at home in any physical world gallery as they would in a virtual setting.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Forbidden Fruit

This latter point is very much proven with the selection of work forming Forbidden Fruit, which marks something of a departure from Moni’s previous exhibitions at Nitroglobus – Hidden Faces , Sensuality, and Changing Moods – in that for some of the pieces here, Moni has found inspiration in the work of a another artist, as Dido explains:

Moni got inspired by a RL exhibition of famous Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf, which she visited last Spring in the Gemeente Museum The Hague. Especially the mood of the early series Squares and Chessmen by Mr Olaf you will notice are reflected in some of the images of this present exhibition.

Such is Moni’s compositional eye that she presents a unique perspective on Olaf’s work (take Stone as an example) which is far from derivative – but which would nevertheless be completely at home in an exhibition such as Chessmen.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Forbidden Fruit

For me, the power of Moni’s work is her ability to offer a tale of sensuality through pose and / or focus on bodily curve without necessarily utilising exposing nudity or full facial expression (which is not to say nudity is not present in some of the pieces here). Take the titular Forbidden Fruit, for example. It carries a rich sensuality that evokes feelings of desire bordering on lust, heightened by the use of clothing and the hiding of Moni’s eyes under the wrap. This particular piece also highlights another maturing aspect of Moni’s work: her ability to layer narrative and images; in this case the pairing of a woman with prominently placed apples offers a suggestiveness of story that reaches all the way back to Eve, the apple and a certain serpent – and what form the knowledge may have taken.

There is also a richness of self about Moni’s work that I again find attractive perhaps more than other artists who produce images using their avatars as models; Moni offers subtle insights into her personality and nature – with the emphasis on subtle. This heightens the response to her work that can reach beyond examining any single image or selection of images, to tickle the desire to know her personally.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Forbidden Fruit

Rounded-out with lounge, a sculpture by Kaiju Kohime that sits perfectly with Moni’s images, this is again a marvellous exhibition by an exceptionally talented artist and visualist.

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Moni’s Changing Moods in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Changing Moods

Monique Beebe makes a further return to Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, curated by Dido Haas, with a new exhibition entitled Changing Moods, a must-see exhibition, although part of it should be considered NSFW.

This is Moni’s third appearance at the gallery, and having covered her first two – Hidden Faces (see here for more) and Sensuality (see here for more), I confess to having been excited by the news of her return, as I’ve found her to be one of the most sensuous, evocative artist and – given she is generally the subject of her own work – models in Second Life.

The traits of sensuality, strength, vulnerability and expressive beauty seen in both Hidden Faces and Sensuality are clearly present in the 14 images presented within Changing Moods, which takes a different direction to the two prior exhibitions by presenting all of the photographs in monochrome. This is a particularly striking decision as it richly casts Moni’s work in a new light: black-and-white photography can often lead to bold images bereft of the greater softening afforded by the blending of multiples hues and tones common in colour photography; it also tends to draw the eyes into the central figure(s) within a tableau.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Changing Moods

This is very much the case with many of the images Moni present here. But while perhaps appearing more hard-edged than might have been the case had they been produced in colour, the monochrome presentation also serves to heighten the beauty within each piece and – to my eye – induces more of a feeling that we are witnessing Moni’s inner perspective of herself, as shaped by her moods and desires – some of which might be considered leaning towards the erotic.

Narrative is another powerful factor within Moni’s photography, and this is also brought to the fore within the pieces offered in this exhibition. Take for example Robotoca, Almost Real, and The Mask We All Wear. All offer up ideas of identity, place and self-image in an increasingly technological world where the demands to reveal all perhaps causes us to react with a greater desire to hide, while the pressure to conform evokes the need to be strikingly  different.

Moods and desire as also powerfully incorporated into these works in a variety of ways, from the direct – as with Captured, with its strong portrayal of erotic desire -, through the almost wistful subtext contained within InnocentThe Look and (to a degree) Wet.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Changing Moods

There is also something else within these images which is salient for the times in which we live. It is an over-arching narrative that collectively runs through all of them and which, in so doing, completely alters the perspective they present. This is entirely intentional on Moni’s part, as Dido explains in the liner notes accompanying the exhibition:

Moni presents work that shows how her ‘Doll’ is created. She uses artificial arms, legs and face to illustrate this process. Moni gets the impression in SL women are often treated like Dolls; pampered, loved and dumped after usage.

When viewed with this in mind, the context of the images presented in Changing Moods is dramatically altered. We are no longer in the mindspace of personal thoughts, moods, and desires, but have stepped into that questionable space of how – as Dido notes – women can so often  be regarded and treated as objects. Thus is the subtext present within the images dramatically shifted. Take the way in which Captured, for  example, moves from being a sensually secretive desire within the mind of the subject to become a darker voyeuristic (and subjegative) desire to see a woman so helpless on the part of an observer.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Changing Moods

Evocative, provocative, challenging and captivating is another stunning exhibition of photography by an exceptionally talented artist, Changing Moods is open through until the end of October 2018, and one not to be missed.

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Hidden Faces in Second Life

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Hidden Faces
Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Hidden Faces

Hidden Faces, now open at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery curated by Dido Haas, is an exhibition of photography by Monique Beebe. While no stranger to Second Life – she has been involved in the platform for the last decade – Hidden Faces marks the first public exhibition of her photography.

On display are twelve self-studies by Monique (or Moni, as she signs herself), offered in the familiar large format at Nitroglobus, which reveal the reason behind the exhibition’s title: in not one of them does the artist fully reveal her face. The most we see in those where her face may be partially exposed is the curve of cheek, soft line of jaw, sweep of nose and flare of nostrils and most particularly, the fullness of lips.

These glimpses are tantalising, sensual, and in at least one case – Thinking (seen at the top of this article) – edged with pensiveness. They draw us into the pictures in a physical way, the desire to reach out and caress a cheek, cup and gently lift a chin, to see the eyes that remain hidden, is powerful to the point of mesmerizing.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Hidden Faces
Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Hidden Faces

Each of the poses offered is equally as sensual, with a couple probably NSFW. In many Moni is dressed in little more than her underwear or in sheer slips and tops; her poses nuanced, the dark backdrop to each piece further heightening its sensual feel. In two of those where her face isn’t visible at all, their sensual nature is carried in other ways: the lace ribbons tied around wrists, the drape of pearls down a naked back…

But there is more here has well. While Moni may be shy about revealing herself fully in the spotlight of an art exhibition, but because the images are so personal – both to her and in our reaction to them, they imbue a feeling of closeness with her without in any way casting us into the role of voyeur. Rather, the suggestion is that these are intimate moments being willingly shared with us, because we are trusted.

Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Hidden Faces
Nitroglobus Roof Gallery: Hidden Faces

Hidden Faces is a beautiful portfolio of work specifically created for this exhibition by an artist who may well be new to the SL exhibition circuit, but whose work is fully deserving of being seen by a wider audience. As such, I hope we’ll be able to see more of her work displayed at galleries in-world in the future. In the meantime, Hidden Faces will remain open through until late March.

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