Thursday, January 22, 2009

Light touch: the art of Feathers Boa

As you have already realized, I've been out of SL for a little bit. Thanks for popping by the blog in my absence, and hopefully next week Thirza will be all over the metaverse... one thing I plan on seeing firsthand, as soon as I am back, is the art of Feathers Boa at her gallery on sim Esterhal. She very kindly took a few minutes out of her hectic schedule to talk to me earlier this week. Here's what happened when we talked...
She came inworld, like so many of us, at the suggestion of a friend, and at first says she didn't really get it.; she just looked around and explored. Then someone suggested she import some of her student work "and that was the beginning for me. I was hooked. I wanted to do something unique with my art though, using SL as a medium to develop my art and explore new techniques and styles."
Is this the 'real' Feathers?
Feathers Boa: When I first came to SL,I made it a challenge to recreate the 'real' me in a virtual world, with some enhancements. In RL, I am very petite, like a feather, one burst of wind and I would flutter away. So my avie is what I'd be like if I could change everything I dislike about RL me. My look is a patchwork of designers. It changes almost as much as my art does. I created the shape I have now and made two avatars which I gave away at a few of my opening shows. I made a lil robot avie which is an avatar version of the giant robot on Caerleon Art Collective. People seem to love him and I made a female robot too. He brings out the mischief in people. I also made a Living Canvas avatar where you become a work of art all framed and ready to hang on a wall. That is available at Studio 33 for free.
I wondered how she finds time for so many creative endeavours in RL and SL.
Feathers Boa: I admit I spend way too much time in SL. I love it because here I can be much BIGGER in than in RL. I am very very shy - but SL brings me out of my shell. Also, my childhood was a bit rough, foster care etc. That makes me a little fearful I guess. But in SL I can be anything I want. This freedom is intoxicating, even addictive. I have so many friends and activities that at times, it can be overwhelming. Balance is important. As freeing and powerful as SL can be for a creative person, it also can be a huge source of anxiety. The bugs and log-in issues, lag etc. can drive me crazy if I let it. I am not really a tech person. I love SL because building with primitives is very intuitive and loose. Which is also part of the frustration. The controls are weird and things behave in odd ways. Things that are easy in 3D programs outside of SL are hard inside SL. Or maybe it's my own lack of skill. That said, I am no programmer but I do manage to build and program in SL. So it is easy for a dumb creative like myself to tap into the power of SL. My friends and socializing is what keeps me sane when I wanna throw a brick at a Linden.
The building experience can be so intense and enjoyable I wondered how she reacts to her own completed art.
Feathers Boa: After I make something I have a moment where I am so relieved to have finished that I stand back and go "nice!" Then, almost immediately, I start criticizing it. But I leave it out there and let others enjoy or hate it. "Disillusionary Optics" is a defining work. It moves around you and plays from many angles. The colors are soft and fragile and I do like the texturing. Another one would be "Frigid." I was feeling trapped at that time in my life. I felt like my heart and my body was encased in cold hard ice. People seem to go "wow" when they see it because they never expect the canvas to come to life. Some of my darker works like "Illusive Dreamer" and "Into the Darkness" represent times in my life that were so hard, and yet people seem to be drawn to them. One work which is never shown now, but I have been told is very emotional: "Witch Hunt." It's a nude self portrait in 3D, I am bound to a stake with swirling imagery from the Salem witch trials behind me. As the viewer approaches, they actually cause flames to begin to burn and consume me. I showed it once or twice, but reactions were so strong that I stopped. On one side, people seemed to understand the depth of feeling and sadness, while others found it lurid and trashy. Someday I make do a whole show around this work. Who knows?
I asked Feathers about her favourite galleries inworld.
Feathers Boa: I love Crossworlds. My work is on the second and sixth floor there, and on the ground floor at Studio 33, and at NMC Campus West - The Aho museum. But my work is turning up all over the place now which is flattering, but also disconcerting. I will be somewhere and someone will say "Hey, isn't that your picture?" I seem to have been collected by a lot of people I guess...My favorite place right now for my work is Caerleon Art Collective where I have my workshop. It is great to have so many great artists-residence all around me, like Alizarin Goldflake, Aristide Despres, Banrion Constantine, Bryn Oh, Glyph Graves, four Yip, luce Laval, Nonnatus Korhonen, Pete Jiminy and Ub Yifu . The curator of the 3 sims, Georg Janick, is a professor in RL at my university U MASS. Each one is spectacular in their own way and are an inspiration for me. My siteI on the web hosts a lot of my pieces, and have my own gallery now on sim Esterhal and I will soon be hosting up and coming artists! Which makes me proud and excited.
The artist's creative process always fascinates me, I asked Feathers how she works.
Feathers Boa: It sometimes takes weeks to complete a work from concept to finished piece. Other times it takes a matter of hours, depending on the idea or the techniques I'm using. In RL I paint and draw and do some photography, in the digital world I drift like crazy between programs like Painter X, Photoshop, Gimp and 3D stuff like Vue 7, Cinema 4D, ZBrush etc. I see something and I want to try it. Or I dream something and I want to make it. Sometimes I get ideas in a flash and sometimes they build over time.I read a lot and that sometimes gives me ideas. What I see is probably the biggest thing. It could be a work of art or even some texture formed by accident on a wall in a city. Sometimes it's a fleeting glance of a person. I saw this really beautiful face in an airport one time and I went home and immediately painted her as best I could from memory.
ArtsParks is devoted to promoting the work of artists in SL, particularly creating spaces that celebrate works that inspire us from RL - letting our fellow residents glimpse perhaps for the first time the wonders that feed our creativity, by building artistic spaces, or Arts parks, to illustrate and interpret their poems, paintings, music and sculpture. Who whould Feathers celebrate?
Feathers Boa: Well there are some obvious ones: Michaelangelo, Van Gogh, Dali, Mary Cassat, all the pre-Raphaelites, Monet, Rothko. But mostly my inspiration is drawn from films. I love silent era films and German expressionism, Blade Runner, Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles. I love the work of Pablo Neruda and his poetry makes into my work all the time. If I had to pick one influence to do a tribute to, it would be him. Everything I see and feel and read makes its way into what I make. I don't know how else to put it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mantova: marmo moda e musica

Mantova è una città cinta dall'acque
Più che a Roma di antica fondazione
Fa venticinque in sei mila persone
A varj Imper a varie età soggiacque,
Non quel so' uomo in esse illustre nacque,
Cioè il divino Virgilio Marone,
Ma il Folegno, il Battista, il Castiglione,
Centomila che l'istoria tacque,
Ha fiumi: il Mincio, l'Oglio, Secchia e Pò,
Di bel: Molini, Ponte, Corte, e il Te
Di buon: pan, vin, pollami, vacche e Bò
Tien borseghe di merci, e di caffè,
Ma corse per moneta li pagherò,
E il traffico e il denar presso Mosè

Giammaria Galeotti, Mantova 1699-1774

Come away with me to Mantua... it's the birthplace of the Latin poet Virgil, and Italy's answer to Emily Post, Baldessar Castiglione. It's where Romeo got the poison for this bit of tomb-theatrics, and the home turf of Verdi's naughty singing Duke in Rigoletto. This Renaissance city lies in the elbow of the Mincio river, hotter than Louisiana in August, in the winter colder than a polar bear's snow cone (which is shrinking as we speak btw), the culture of Mantua (in Italian, Mantova) is directly linked to its rich agricultural and commercial activity and the refined taste of the court of the Gonzagas, who ruled Mantua and the surrounding dukedom from the mid 1300'a - the era of Dante - to the mid 1600's - the era of Galileo. Among Mantua's leading ladies, Isabella d'Este, who came here from the equally posh Ferrara , in the early 1500's (think Orlando Furioso and Leonardo da Vinci), and in the 1700's the charming Marianna Sartoretti hostess poetess and patron of the arts. I mentioned polar bears, it was bitterly cold in January 1770 when Leopold Mozart accompanied his boy Wolfgang on a musical tour of the peninsular. It would be almost a hundred years before Italy would become an independent, united country, at that time Mantua was part of the Austrian Empire. Mozart Jr.'s visit was a huge success The local newspaper was very enthusiastic about his visit: the Gazzetta di Mantova (founded in 1664, and still offering its readers insights into the rich and vibrant cultural events of the city,) commented that Wolfgango Amedeus Mozart "is a miracle in music, one of those freaks Nature causes to be born, a Ferracina to humiliate the Mathematicians, and a Corilla to degrade the poets... the said famous little boy in the course of some two hours gave proofs of his amazing talent" to the musical literati of the city, and concerts in the homes of many of Manua's first families and at the Teatro Scientifico. Leopold wrote hime to his wife that he had never seen a more lovely concert hall. But Mozart, possibly during a trip to see the newly 'completed' church of Sant'Andrea, 374 years after it was begun by the great architect Alberti, took a chill to his hands, which upset Signora Sartoretti so much she not only had a special pommade put on those valuable fingers, but also wrote a sonnet about the event, and sent the boy four crowns by way of a little pocket money.

All right, but what about virtual Mantua? It is, quite simply, a joy. One of that rare breed of longterm places of excellence in the SL's mutable stream of construction and annihilation. And some very pleasant and hugely patient residents to boot - yes, I'm still swimming in unrezzed treacle every time I come inworld. Luckily ArtsParks Photographer Leonard Hawker came along for the trip and took the pictures you see here - can you spot his trusty jet pack in one of the pictures? I was also delighted to meet the charming Mantova factotum Emanuele Carfagno (pictured up top) who very gallantly put up with my slow and obvious questions... he told me that unlike some other Italian city projects, Parma for example, this sim is entirely a private initiative. Owners Maury Channing e Pietro2cv Morigi of the software company MitCom put the place together, using authentic textures and proportions, bringing the 'real' city inworld, but not the skeeters or the frostbite, I'm glad to say. Above the main sim space, a platform hosts one of Mantua's most beloved monuments, the Palazzo Te. Its position, visible in the sky above the main square, is a pleasing paradox. The RL version was built on an island by the son of Isabella d'Este mentioned above. Built on a marshy site away from the main palace, it was a get-away for the Duke and his lover, Isabella Boschetti. It's the only part of the build where real world proportions have had to be put to one side. The ornately decorated rooms inside the palazzo are too small for avatar appreciation, so the design is currently a work in progress, to provide ease of viewing of the masterpieces such as Giuliano Romano's Amore e Psiche.
I asked Maury what his favourite building was.
Maury Channing: was his favourite piece, My version of S. Andrea - the huge basilica in the main square. I'm proudest of it really because of the challenges it presented, it's a huge and complex structure, and I wanted to get all the details right.

Emanuele Carfagno: Mantova has quite a few upcoming events, but the one that we're most proud of is happening next week. It's an international fashion show organized by RUNWAY Productions' Maggie Mahoney, Ocean Bates, and Payton Heron. Here's the blurb:

"2009 Mantova International Art and Fashion Festival : The festival will be a week-long celebration of art and fashion from the international design community and will be held at the Mantova sim and sponsored by the Mantova Group.
The festival will feature daily two fashion shows at 12 pm SLT and 4 pm SLT each day, with live entertainment interspersed throughout the day. There will be a dance court and romantic walk for nightly dancing and socializing with live DJ each evening at 6 pm SLT.
The entire premise of the festival is to bring the international community in SL together and harmoniously present a forward look at art and fashion in Second Life." One of the participants is Delia Auer, who has a dress shop in the central square. I was curious to know why she had chosen Mantova for her store.

Delia Auer: Well, I have personal connections in RL to the city and I think it's very beautiful, but what's really great about SL Mantua is that the people here are reliable and consistent. It's not a commercial sim and everything here is made with a deep love of art, and generally speaking people who come here have a background in the arts. Most of my clients - I should say about 80% of them - are women artists in RL, and they get what it means to produce original work. It would be very easy to make a basic dress and then just keep churning out the same thing over and over, changing the odd feature here and there. Obviously I have expenses, but I'm not really interested in the money side of the work I do, for me it's all about creativity and expression. As you can see from the pictures in my store, I have had some wonderful models including Miss SL Universe. It takes me about two days to make a dress, and as for inspiration, well it just happens. I am also a musician, and I have a blog where you can see more of my stuff.

So, gentle reader, go literary, go classical, go fashionista, but go to Mantova on sim Mitcom Experience. I'd come with you, but as you can see I still have some work to do on this template...

Vieni via con me... a Mantova. Qui nacque Virgilio, e Castiglione, qui Romeo compra il veleno per poter morire accanto alla sua Giulietta, questa è patria di Rigoletto e il suo cinico duca. La città romano-medievale-rinascimentale si trova sul fiume Mincio divenuto lago in questa zona paludosa e caldissima d'estate, gelido d'inverno. La sua ricchezza dovuta all'industria e la fertilita' sia della sua gente che del suolo mantovano ha consentito una fioritura di cultura in particolare durante il periodo dei Gonzaga, dal '300 al '600 ovvero dall'epoca di Dante fino all'epoca di Galileo. Di somma importanza tra i personaggi di spessore culturale a Mantova la duchessa Isabella d'Este nel primo '500: e nel '700 Marianna Sartorelli, poetessa, e regina dei salotti mantovani. Faceva molto freddo quando arrivò a Mantova Leopoldo Mozart insieme al figlio tredicenne. Era il suo primo tournee' in Italia: in un articolo qui riportato in inglese del gennaio 1770 sulla Gazzetta di Mantova (giornale fondato nel 1664 e tuttora fonte di notizie culturali) 'Wolfgango' viene definito un 'miracolo della musica, un fenomeno della Natura, un Ferracina per umiliare i matematici, una Corilla per mettere in disagio i poeti." Il ragazzo diede prova del suo talento per oltre due ore ai musicisti principali della città, in seguito per 8 serate, suonò a casa delle famiglie più illustri di Mantova e anche al teatro Scentifico: in una lettera alla moglie Leopoldo scrisse che il teatro fosse il più bello che abbia mai visto. A un certo punto durante la permanenza a Mantova, forse mentre visitava la basilica di S.Andrea, da poco completata (dopo 374 anni di cantieri e ritardi) Wolfgang ha preso freddo alle mani, la Signora Sartrelli non solo ha mandato una pomata per salvare quelle dita preziose, gli ha dedicato un sonnetto anacreontico, e (sicuramente più graditi che la pomata e le rime - credimi l'ho letto e ve lo risparmio) ha regalato al giovane anche quattro coroni. Quindi i mantovani sono generosi e colti - che dire di Mantova in SL? Sono altrettanto gentili. Ho fatto una piccola visita al sim di MitCom Experience insieme a Leonard Hawker. Avendo io ancora dei disagi con SL, lui ha scattato le foto che vedi qui, insieme ad un nuovo amico di ArtsParks, Emanuele Carfagno - mi ha fatto da cicerone qui a Mantova e mi ha spiegato un po' come è nata Mantova virtuale.Emanuele Carfagno: Mantova è stata creata da una società informatica mantovana, la MitCom. Assomiglia moltissimo a Mantova in RL. Non so se hai già visitato la basilica di S. Andrea qui dietro, è la riproduzione di quella reale sia nelle dimensioni che nelle texture. Materialmente è stata fatta dagli owner che sono Maury Canning e Pietro2cv Morigi della MitCom una ditta d'informatica mantovana. Si tratta di un'iniziativa privata, non come a Parma o Vicenza: qui il comune non centra e non mi risulta che abbia partecipato :). A Maury Canning owner e builder ho chiesto quale degli edifici è il suo preferito. Ha risposto subito: S.Andrea. E' la piu grande chiesa e mi ha fatto sudare! Sopra la piazza centrale, a quota 250 m - appropriatamente scostato dal via vai delle strade della citta' - c'e' un altro monumento bellissimo, il Palazzo Te in real voluto dal duca per isolarsi dai pensieri della corte e godere qualche oretta tranquilla con il suo amore la bella Isabella Boschetti. Qui il rispetto per le dimensioni reali del palazzo ha creato alcuni problemi, le stanze in Real sono molto piccoli, ed e' diifficile quasi impossible per un avatar visionare bene gli splendidi affreschi di Giuliano Romano (come per esempio il banchetto di Amore e Psiche sarebbe grave se non fosse possibile condividere questa stanza stupenda con i Residenti, quindi forse qualche piccola modifica virtuale sara' lecita...

A Mantova ci sono spesso spettacoli e mostre legati al mondo dell'arte. La settimana prossima ci sara' la grande festa internazionale di arte e moda organizzato da Maggie Mahoney, Ocean Bates, e Payton Heron, della RUNWAY Productions. La festa è all'insegna dell'armonia e pace in SL, un'occasione per un vero scambio culturale. Le sfilate alle 12.00 SLT e ale 16.00 SLT ogni giorno daranno l'occasione di vedere stilisti da tutto il metaverso. Le serate saranno dedicate al ballo e l'amicizia, con una bella pista da ballo e una passeggiata romantica. Una giornata è dedicata agli stilisti che hanno i negozi a Mantova quindi partecipa anche Delia Auer, la vedi nella foto qui sopra, ha un negozio di vestiti qui sulla piazza. Ho chiesto a Delia per quale motivo ha scelto Mantova come base principale.Delia Auer: Perchè ho dei contatti rl con Mantova ed è una citta che mi piace ma soprattutto perchè è un bel sim di gente seria che ama l'arte. Non è un sim commerciale, è fatto con amore artistico soprattutto, e la gente che viene qui in genere ha un certo spessore culturale. Le mie clienti sono soprattutto artiste RL: direi per un 80% o più. Loro capiscono il lavoro, e l'originalità. Sarebbe molto semplice fare un vestito e replicarlo variando qua e là ma non faccio così. Ho partecipato a tente sfilate infatti in alcuni carteli sulla parte vedi la modella - Miss SL Universe. per fare un vestito ci vogliono due giorni, e cosa mi ispira? Difficile a dire, viene da dentro. Io sono qui per esprimermi attraverso la mia arte, anche se ovviamente esiste il lato finanziario del mio negozio non ha per me molta importanza. Io sono anche musicista. Vedi nelle pictures e puoi ascoltare sul mio sito. Ho fatto anche concerti sl, una bell'esperienza: è una possibilità di essere creativi e conoscere altri creativi.
Ecco cari - Mantova in SL davvero merita la vostra attenzione. Andate presto, per vedere la moda, per camminare in mezzo all'arte, per respirare il Rinascimento. Io guingero'... ma come vedete, prima debbo mettere a posto questo template... uff

Thursday, January 1, 2009


But somewhere always, nowhere particularly unusual,
Almost anywhere in the landscape of water and houses,
His crying competing unsuccessfully with the cry
Of the traffic or the birds, is always standing
The one who needs you, that terrified
Imaginative child who only knows you
As what the uncles call a lie,
But knows he has to be the future and that only
The meek inherit the earth, and is neither
Charming, successful, nor a crowd;
Alone among the noise and policies of summer,
His weeping climbs towards your life like a vocation.
W H Auden, Like a vocation

Whew! So now we all have to get used to writing '09 and that tricky new Universal remote, while accepting the fact those resolutions are unlikely to last till the end of the month. A time to look back on the first year of ArtsParks for me. So many places, so much lag! No only kidding, so much art, some weird, some wonderful; some so tenaciously close to the schema of RL it pinches you pixels just to look at it, other places so unanchored they fail to touch, many (thank goodness) deliciously loose, original, stylish, erudite, and imaginative.
The best bits of my 08 tour of SL Art are hard to classify, but here are some of them, in no particular order:
Jabberwocky, Surrealia Anatine's take on Alice through the Looking glass. It's a dreamworld interpretation of the book, making full use of the freedom from logic and gravity only SL and our imagination can grant.
Starry Night, that used to be at Luctesa, now sadly gone, offered a materclass in arts parkery. There were three famous paintings rendered in avatar-side 3D so that you could walk in the village of starry night or sit in the garden at Arles. More than that, on sale were not only photo textures but also stunning reworking of his paintings made to seem like stained glass, and a full global gallery bringing together his work from collections all around the world.
October Country, Martian Wei's celebration of gothic horror, framed by the works of H P Lovecraft. No daft dead-end vampire club this, rather, a feast of fear with sinister houses, monsters, and radio plays streaming 24/7.
The Michelle Babii photographic show set to the poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay. I didn't know Millay's work until I saw this exhibition of photos from sim Silent, whose wonderfully evocative black and white look is also now gone. But the poems remain.
Axtilio Villier's Terezin exhibition, the haunting drawings by children caught up in the Shoah.
The Beatles experience, by Deroiste Quixote herself a musician of talent. Nowhere in SL could you find out more about Liverpool and the Fab Four.
Clematilde Oyen's Sybirya, the park to Jules Verne is another high point. With Magica de Cuir, she has made the life and works of Verne come alive in the ingenious machinery of an re-imagined world. For my own part, I was given the task of rebuilding the villa of the poet Catullus at Porto Cervo, which introduced me to both his poetry and the charms of simultaneous translation along with the chance to build something ruinous.
Map Darwin's map collection. Art and science, history and literature, presented with elan. Plus they have cool freebies.
You can find links to the slurls of most of these places of pedigree, by browsing the archive on your left.
The worst things I have seen: Endless nameless art galleries that look like lagers or midWest malls, which is tautology.
A memorably crappy French sim with campers dancing around a giant nipple in the name of Pompidou.
Blobby sculptures that say 'everything'. ACK!
The Beethoven sim, and although be fair it may have improved; I should go back to see if the insanely dull buildings or ghastly garden have given way to something more worthy of the composer.
Empty, harshly decorated meeting places. Please can no-one build any more conference centres, meeting halls, or seminar rooms. Or if you must, couldn't you make yours comic, surreal, or informative?
The Burning Man festival.
Oh, and someone took me to see a Resident (name lost in the mists) whose art consisted of putting the beach in boxes. Something about bits of land poking up through water inside a hollow cube that said nothing to me. And by nothing I mean "whatthe... TP! TP!"
Places I plan to see in this new year.
Much more of Caledon, this green and pleasant land in the Steampunk tradition, we'll see more of their literary and historical exhibitions and ingenious artistic inventions. I shall stalk such excellent Caledonians as Master Librarian and all-round good egg JJ Drinkwater and the glamorous archivist Siri Woodget for the purpose, and will need more pseudoVictorian clothes but if I must shop, well, that's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make.
More original art on the menu from luminaries like Feathers Boa and our own Aloisio Congrejo whose jazz art phase is becoming more intricate and fascinating. The feature picture above is his sculpture to Miles Davis, which you can see at his jazz club on Tanalois.
The Italian citta' d'arte will also feature, particularly Mantova which is easily the best represented inworld so far. Perhaps Rome Florence and Venice will catch up with it in '09, what say we go and inspect them too.
Performance art, well, Votslav Hax's impressive stable of talent will no doubt be gracing these pages. But there will be more. The play's the thing: expect posts from the Globe and the theatre at Ivy Falls as well, and I hope from some of the Western roleplaying sims. In preparation, this morning I started an intensive course of anti-lag shots (I generally take the shots with ice and lemon) so by the end of the month I will be appropriately lubricated for the task.
Best of all, I got to chat with you, and meet some of you face to virtual face. I am always looking for new places to visit and post about, so if you see something bloggable, please comment here or send me a notecard inworld.
May 2009 bring you joy, and more: more health, wealth, harmony. And as many artful hours in SL as you desire.