It was back to Dido Haas’s Nitroglobus Roof Gallery for me for the second of the May / June exhibitions on offer there. Fade to Grey, offered within Dido’s space at the gallery is an exhibition of Dido’s own images, all of which have been rendered as monochrome pieces, with some additionally post-processed to give the impression of drawings.
Dido is perhaps best known for her curation of Nitroglobus Roof gallery where – as I’ve oft stated in these pages – she is able to encourage artists from across Second Life to present exceptional exhibitions of their art. She is also, again as I’ve noted, a gifted photographer-artist herself. What may be less well known is that she is a blogger and Second Life traveller.
Since July 2009 I put a lot of my SL time in writing for my blog ‘Exploring SL with Dido‘, however the emphasize shifted more and more from text to images. In line with this I started to place my best blog images and more private photos in my Flickr account … Being so busy with curating the gallery, I have little time left to make images myself … But sometimes when I am in the right mood I do make images, most of them black/white.
– Dido Haas
The eight images reflect Dido’s talent for black-and-white images and her love of exploration. They have been captured in various regions around Second Life, including Furillen, Quoted Memories and AEAEA islands. However, seven of the images are all very much studies in narrative, the focus being both Dido herself, and the embodiment of mood and emotion, while the eighth is presented as a self-portrait, finished as a drawing, an arm stretched forward as if in greeting / encouragement. All of them together offer an invitation for us to step into Dido’s Second Life and share in both her artistic view of our digital world and in her personal time in-world.
Small in size, intimate in content, Fade to Grey is a warm exhibition that can be enjoyed for itself – and for those who might like to, Dido suggests viewing the exhibition whilst listening to the most successful single released by British synth-pop group Visage, and which has the same name as the exhibition (and, as it was originally written as an instrumental piece, there’s also this version, if you prefer).
Love can be scary only because you realize you care about someone as much as you care about yourself. You open your hearth knowing that it could be broken, however being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure, joy and excitement, and make you feel that true bond and energy that is pulling you to belong to the other.
– from the introduction to Gravity at Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, May 2022
Over the years – as I recently noted in writing about the gallery’s 10th anniversary – Nitroglobus / Nitroglobus Roof Gallery has been the home to some of the most remarkable exhibitions of art I’ve witnessed in Second Life down the years; so much so that singling one out over the others is practically impossible. However, I have to say there is something very special to be found within Gravity, an exhibition of work by Lika Cameo that will be open throughout May 2022 at the gallery.
An exploration of the nature of love, Gravity presents a series of images created by Lika that reflect, either individually or in groups of three, poems on the subject. The majority of the latter are by Celestial Demon, and are not what you might call “traditional” sonnets such as Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43. Rather, there are more deeply focused on specific emotions both light and dark that accompany out love for another.
The imagery created by Demon’s words is powerful; within the poems we can find obsession, freedom, contentment, happiness, need, desire, comfort … Along with them are three further poems on love. Two are by Pablo Neruda and the third is by Lika herself, and offer the aforementioned more traditional approach to expressing thoughts and reflections on the subject.
Taken on their own, the poems offer considerable insight into the nature of love its push/pull / yin/yang nature it embodies.
Alongside of them, Lika’s art is literally poetry in images. As a mixed media artist, Lika has an extraordinary ability to offer expression and narrative through her pieces. Preferring to work in black-and-white / monochrome (there is one colour trio included in Gravity), she fully demonstrate this ability within this exhibition. There is a stunning richness of life and motion within every single piece on display, a richness that does more than reflect the emotions of the poems, it becomes a visual synonym for the emotions expressed within the poems.
What is particularly stunning with Gravity is the mutualistic symbiosis between art and poetry. All of the pieces, whether singletons or trios, stand independent of the poems to which they have been paired, making this an exhibition that can be enjoyed purely as a visual immersion. Similarly, if one chooses to do so, the poems can be read and appreciated without reference to the images alongside time. When taken taken together, however, they mutually benefit one another and Gravity takes on a depth of life and meaning that captivates.
With this in mind, and while I could prattle on at length here about Gravity, I’m going to spare you and instead genuinely urge you to see the exhibition for yourself.
In April 2012, Nitro Fireguard and Dido Haas opened the doors of the Nitroglobus art gallery in Second Life. To be sure, it wasn’t the first gallery to open in SL nor would it be the last – but it is one of the most enduring; consistently the home of some of the most remarkable exhibitions of virtual art in Second Life.
From the moment the original Nitroglobus opened, it was clear that Dido and Nitro were prepared to encourage those invited to exhibit to push their personal boundaries. I doubt there has not been a single exhibition within the gallery’s halls with their trademark “reflective floors” (under which the displayed art is “mirrored”) that hasn’t failed to engage and excite. However, the gallery’s life almost came to an abrupt end when Nitro passed away, as Dido notes.
Nitro was a very creative person and when he died in November 2015, I was devastated and didn’t want to continue …
However, friends convinced me to continue and in January 2016 I have the first exhibition at Nitroglobus Hall … A year later I moved to the present building, Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, situated above my SL home.
– Dido Haas
There cannot be many involved in the SL arts community who cannot be grateful that Dido came to this decision. In the years since, Dido has worked hard to ensure that it remains at the forefront of artistic expression within Second Life.
I don’t know how she does it, but Dido has a gift in being able to both continue the gallery’s reputation for encouraging artists to push their personal boundaries and to also encourage those who have never exhibited in Second Life to take the plunge and do so; something that cannot be easy if they are aware of even a tiny portion of the gallery’s stellar history of art exhibits.
In this, I confess to being in awe of Dido’s innate ability to encourage and promote talent, and can honestly say that the month exhibitions at Nitroglobus are something I look forward to with great anticipation. I’m also honoured by the fact that over the last several years I have come to know Dido – herself a gifted photographer-artist who doesn’t exhibit her own work nearly enough – personally. And I can say heart-on-heart that she is one of the kindest, warmest, friendliest, caring and warm souls it has been my privilege to get to know through Second Life. I genuinely and deeply admire her for her talent, and cherish her as a friend,
To mark the gallery’s 10th anniversary, Dido is hosting a celebratory party within what I like to call Dido’s Space within the gallery. Starting at 12:00 noon SLT on Tuesday, April 19th, the part will feature music by Bsukmet Stormcrow and particle effects by Venus Adored, with the walls of a space decorated with slideshows of many of the unique and engaging posters created to promote the exhibitions Nitroglobus and Nitroglobus Roof Gallery have hosted across the last ten years, together with 3D elements from artists who have displayed at the gallery and a piece by Nitro himself and which will hopefully remain in place for a while after the celebrations.
Those who might be unfamiliar with the extraordinary exhibitions that have formed the gallery’s distinguished history might like to avail themselves of the section of this blog devoted to Nitroglobus; I have sadly not been able to cover every exhibition at the gallery, but I hope the selection offered here will encourage those who browse it and who do regularly visit Nitroglobus to do so going forward.
Congratulations to Dido and the gallery on reaching 10 years, and many there be many more to come!
The April 2022 exhibition hosted in the main hall of the Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, operated by Dido Haas, features the work of Elfi Siemens within a collection she has called StatusMenti. It is a richly metaphorical examination of self, as the artist notes:
We all have those dark, sinister places inside our minds: Areas where the sun does NOT shine all the time. And oh, how hard we try to hide them from the world around us!
Status Menti / State Of Mind is an emotional trip through my personal darkness – and who knows, maybe you will find parts of your own inner twilight zone in those images painted with shadows.
– Elfi Siemens
Thus, through the fourteen images presented at Nitroglobus, we are invited to tour elements of Elfi’s Country of the Mind, to use a term coined in fiction by Greg Bear to describe a means of visually exploring a person’s psychology. True, Greg – notably through his novel Queen of Angels (1990) – used a form of virtual reality to allow a character to directly interact with another’s psychology / subconscious, but the fact that we are viewing Elfi’s work through a virtual medium – Second Life – does allow for a foundational link between Bear’s fiction technique and our explorations of the art present here.
More particularly, the subject matter projected through the fourteen images allows us the ability – as Elfi notes – to witness and explore the more shadowed aspects of her psyche, to join her on a journey through her thoughts and fears, reflection and projections.
What is particularly engaging about the fourteen pieces Elfi has presented is the sheer diversity of presentation and symbolism. From monochrome to colour through varying degrees of hue and tone, from the direct portrait through to framed story, in the use of surrealist through to the abstracted, each piece is unique to itself, yet retains strands of identity, self-doubt / self awareness that binds it to the rest, and the idea of exploring one’s subconscious.
Some of the imagery is both powerfully clear and also marvellously layered – just take Madness, Cornered, Who Am I Today? and Decisions as examples; elsewhere it is more nuanced – as with Time (complete with a subtle borrowing from Dali), for example. Then there is the use of motif, notably that of the heart (which also appears within the one 3D piece Elfi has included in the exhibition), and the layering of its use.
Of course, one might question as to had genuine a story of self we are on, by virtue of these fact that, like it or not, these are images that have been consciously constructed and thus subject to the influence of the artist’s mind rather then being pure observations of what lies beneath. However, whether this matters or not is down to the individual witnessing the pieces offered; at the end of the day, the artist set out to offer an insight into her thoughts and moods – so even if the results are influenced by conscious thought, they nevertheless still sit as windows to what lies within.
Thus, Status Menti sits as a valid exploration of self / self-doubt and the darker thoughts that are a necessary part of out psyche. While, for those who wish to appreciate art for its own sake, they also sit as a set of rich images to enjoy, each on its own merit.
Monday, February 14th, 2022 saw the opening of Crescent Moon, the latest exhibition Dido Haas is hosting at her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery in Second Life. Presenting the work of Adwehe, this is an exhibition that mixes 2D and 3D art together with a custom EEP setting for the gallery which really should be used (menu → World → Environment → make sure Use Shared Environment is set) if the exhibit is to be properly appreciated.
When the EEP is set, visitors will see that a crescent Moon dominates the sky along one arm of the Gallery; but this is no mere play on the title of the exhibition, there is a purpose in including this huge waxing crescent Moon and making it as much a visual element of the exhibition as any of the images and sculptures Adwehe has on display.
Perhaps the best way to sum up the theme of Crescent Moon would be to use a word that has become a common subject within the world of Second Life art: “identity”. However, this is also too simplistic a term when applied here; Crescent Moon is a multi-faceted exploration of interlocking themes: an exploration of self, identity, the relationship between human and avatar; questions of “godhood” and creation and artistic discovery.
As Adwehe notes, the Moon has a special attraction for humans down the ages and around the world. It has been a focus of worship, a reminder of our small place within the cosmos, encouraging our ancestors to see it as the seat of one deity or another. It is also something we only see thanks to the sunlight it reflects – reminding us the Sun is very much the source of life on Earth – whilst that reflected light causing us to see the world around us differently to how we perceive it by the direct light of day; a world both illuminated, yet distorted.
And like the Sun and Moon were once seen as seats of goods, so we can, in sitting behind our screens, become gods in our own right: we can create and destroy at will, whilst our avatars sit as the projection of “self”, but one perhaps distorted. They are not us but projections or who we are – or more correctly, what we want to present of ourselves – through the medium of photons – the same atoms of light that give us life – but organised into a form that is not truly “us”.
Thus we have the opportunity to explore, to experiment, be it through self-expression, through that ability to create with prim, texture, particle, and mesh – and for the artist to do both, through experiments at colour and art from, physical and digital, camera and canvas, Opportunities that both reflect on our inner natures and also to play back into ideas of creation, godhood and primality. All of this is richly explored within Crescent Moon. Within the images we have a captivating mix of painting and photography; they speak to the artist’s acknowledged experimentation with her work in preparing for this exhibition.
But there is something more within them as well. The colours used in many of them are primal in tone: red, blue, black, green; colours that appear to have been painted on Adwehe’s avatar as much as the canvas. This gives the colour images a primal element, something added to by the fact that the character in them – and most of the more monochrome images – is dancing, something that might be seen as an act of worship – or given the Moon’s association with the female gender, perhaps they might also be seen as a celebration of femininity and woman as the source of life. Through these primal / feminine themes, we have a further intertwining of ideas of identity, exploration of self and place both as modern explorers of coming to terms with a new digital realm, giving birth to new means of expression and creation, whilst also presenting an echo of our ancient ancestors as they faced a new and strange realm of the world we have long-since tamed – or is that conquered?
This expressiveness of art, dance, and exploration of our sense of self and place extends into the sculptures Adwehe also presents. With regards to these sculptures, I particularly like the way they both embody the themes of the exhibition and moods expressed by the images and even gently enfold JadeYu Fhang’s KHAOS, a regular piece Dido has on display at Nitroglobus, perfectly into Crescent Moon.
This is an exhibition that mixes so much into it: 2D and 3D art; primal body painting and modern abstractionism; contrasts of humanity and godhood; reflections of our modern mastery of the technology to create worlds of our own, and of our need to find comfort in what could be a strange and something frightening physical world through the worship of what appeared to be two great constants of life: the Sun and the Moon. It is also an exploration of self and mood as we join the artists in her experiments with light, colour, image and object.
For the opening exhibition of 2022 at her Nitroglobus Roof Gallery, Dido Haas brings us Mindscapes, a celebration of the humble prim by Moki Yuitza. Featuring both 2D and 3D elements, this is an engaging, joyous exhibition, which is best introduced by Moki herself:
SL is a virtual world in which everything is possible; space is a mathematical/mental construction in which anything we can conceive can be realised. When I was young, I loved building everything that popped into my head with coloured bricks, and here in SL I used the same basic bricks which were available to give substance to my mental spaces; landscapes, formed just with simple prims in which we as avatars, giving it body and dimension [because] one is meaningless without the other.
– Moki Yuitza on Mindscapes
Mindscapes can be very broadly split into two parts. On, over, and under the transparent floor is the 3D element: prims ranging from the relatively small to the extremely large, some apparently jumbled together, others arranged to form patterns and objects or stacked into columns. Around the walls, meanwhile, is a series of 2D images by Moki, presented in the traditional large format used at Nitroglobus.
The latter most clearly offer a visual representation of our avatar-based relationship with prims. Offered as primarily black-and-while / monochrome pieces, the 2D elements used the shapes and forms present within several of the 3D pieces within the gallery to present intriguing landscapes, rooms and situations from the seemingly simple – giant pyramids being looked upon by a couple of avatars -, through to almost alien landscapes filled with what might be giant spores or pollen, or spaces that seem to comprise random shards of light and dark through which two tiny avatars dance.
Colour plays a minimal role in these pieces, but where it is used, it is to great effect, emphasising the avatars through arms, hands, feet (and in one shot, the avatars directly). By using colour in this way, Moki both draws attention to the avatars, even if largely unseen, and thus the relationship we have with them when bringing this virtual world to life, whilst also equally emphasising the life and vitality we give to our avatars.
Through many of the images and the 3D elements, Moki also celebrates the mathematical dimension of shapes and space, a further outworking of the aspects of Second Life, design and art she notes within her introduction to Mindscapes.
Moki has a long and deservedly recognised reputation for producing installations and art that is richly expressive, engaging and thought-provoking. With Mindscapes she offers all of this and an exhibition that simply offers – as noted – a joyful celebration of the magic to be found within the humble prim.