22 May 2015

The Vineyard at Checkmate

The Vineyard at Checkmate, designed by Amae (Amelia) Moriarty, is, simply put, one of the most beautifully designed sims on the grid — visually striking and engaging with great vistas, lots of areas to explore, and plenty spots for relaxation. It's a "rambling vineyard enveloped by a hazy sky," as she describes it, inviting guests to "wander through the grapes as they soak up the sun, producing the best vintage of pixel wine on the grid."

Visitors arrive high up on a tall outcrop of rock on the southeast corner of the sim, and from there can catch a glimpse of lands below and the other stone formations that encircle most of the island. From the landing point, one can ascend slightly higher to an enclosed stone gazebo, or instead descend a twisting path along the rock face to the valley floor. And there, true to the sim's name, is an extensive vineyard, its mature grape vines growing north to south, supported by trellises stretching in long rows. Nearby, a winery awaits with oak casks and bottles, and some tastings would appear to be available (image below).

But there's much more to see, and The Vineyard at Checkmate the sort of place that seems larger than a single sim: as one explores, something crops up around every corner, whether a place to relax, a gorgeous view, a building to explore, a strip of land leading out toward a lighthouse, or yet another path beckoning visitors to a further location. (Don't miss the hot tub and floating lanterns high on the rocks on northeast corner.) The sim's default windlight setting, shown in most of these images, is a hazy sepia that evokes a beautifully nostalgic feel.

19 May 2015

Molly Bloom's Art Gallery

Fans of Molly Bloom's artwork will probably know of her gallery — simply entitled Molly Bloom's Art Gallery — but if you haven't visited it's more than worth the time. I've written about Molly's beautiful images more than once in these pages, and although she describes her own work as surrealistic and erotic there's much more to it, including a healthy dose of humor. Among the dozens of artworks in her gallery are quite a few of her creative trompe-l'œil assemblages (as above, with the television and popcorn literally out of the picture frame).

Each of the fanciful images is itself a carefully composed work that suggests a narrative, with subjects ranging from the Biblical to rock and roll. (But be forewarned: if nudity or dark humor easily offends you, then it might be best to arrive with an open mind.) The gallery, which was designed by Kaishun Oleander, supports the artworks elegantly. All items are for sale, but even if you're not planning to make a purchase you'll likely enjoy the exhibition itself.

18 May 2015

It all starts with a smile

Last month, Kaelyn Alecto and Maxxster Resident re-opened their lovely sim, It all starts with a smile (about which I've previously written here and here), and it's certainly the best iteration yet of their occasionally transformed home. Explorers are welcomed by an adorable seaside resort (image above), its rocky coastline home to various small shops that no doubt beckon to summer visitors — a bookstore, a bakery, a coffee shop, a newsstand, a tailor, and so on. On the northwest corner, overlooking both town and sea, a lighthouse stands guard, signaling to passing ships.

As the beaches wrap around the outer edge of the island, sandy spots appear that offer fun relaxation — poses abound here and indeed throughout the region. (Below, we're jumping off the edge of a boat anchored just off the shore.) The interior of the island is a pastoral scene with winding paths that lead to myriad destinations, all charmingly appointed, so that the space feels larger than a single sim. (Be sure to find the hidden tunnel.) It's all exceptionally picturesque, and a delightful place to explore. Please consider leaving a contribution if you enjoy your visit.

15 May 2015

Barefoot Wanders

On LEA9, artist Rosie Renfew has created Barefoot Wanders, a space that invites explorers — and especially photographers — to contribute to the artwork itself. This half-sim build includes several pastoral environments in enclosed spaces, located well into the sky, a couple of which are depicted here. Visitors are encouraged to use the spaces for their own photography, and to subsequently upload images that will either be displayed inworld, as shown in the third image here (hard to see, but I'm watching a television that's showing a loop of contributed textures), or to a flickr group. Each landscape has a corresponding "screening room" area.

Even though we're invited to display our images inworld on the screens as shown below — an attempt, certainly, to engage visitors — we can't actually see who took them, and for that flickr remains the sole option for high resolution images that are tagged to show their creators. I love photography in picturesque rural settings, but the lack of direct sun in a skybox environment substantially limits the windlight options, and so I found myself wondering what this really presented over outdoor alternatives. All the same, you might enjoy seeing what you can create, and it's interesting attempt to provide the photographer with a way of participating.

14 May 2015

The Eternal Suspense

Opening tomorrow, Friday, May 15 at 1:30 pm slt is The Eternal Suspense, a sim-wide installation by Giovanna Cerise, presented as part of the LEA Artist in Residence program. It's a substantial creation that stretches not only across the sim but also 400 meters into the air, unfolding over several horizontal layers as it ascends, displaying Giovanna's typically fascinating mathematical complexity.

Whenever I talk with Giovanna about her works, her explanations seamlessly weave together the humanities with mathematics. Here, she focuses on the classic Greek dichotomy of Apollo and Dionysus, two gods often contrasted as opposites, as illuminated in the 1871 work by Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy. As she explains in the notecard, "This concept linked to the interpretation of art can be extended to our daily lives. The man is poised between two or more emotions, he is always in a delicate step, in a hazardous environment. Its location is never easy, he is a tightrope imprisoned in constant tension between his Dionysian side and the Apollonian one. But you have really to choose? Or you have really to find a balance?"

Beginning at the base, we observe figures possibly emerging from the sea (or someplace below, first image above), then ascending on a lattice-like structure (second image) through a giant orb, until they encounter a white figure at the very top, who is either repelling or attracting them (third image). Ethereal columns, only partially visible, float in the space at the build's heights (fourth image). One has the option of flying up (there's an opening on the top platform — turn on the illumination of transparent prims if at first you don't spot it), or you can "teleport with the spinners." Giovanna suggests a simple Sunset windlight setting for the experience, but the linearity of her builds simply invite experimentation, and I often find that Places Wiccan is my all-around preference. The Eternal Suspense will remain on display through the month of June.

11 May 2015

Cocytus: The 9th Circle of Hell

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here," bore the inscription on the Gates of Hell through which Dante and his guide, Virgil, passed as they begin their exploration poetically chronicled in Inferno, the first section of the former's early 14th-century masterpiece, Divine Comedy. Artist Frankx Lefavre has captured the mood of Inferno in his new installation at LEA18, Cocytus: The 9th Circle of Hell, pulling inspiration from the famous 19th-century engravings by Gustave Doré. "I'd been reading, and saw some of Gustav Doré's prints from Dante's work," he explained. "And it struck me: I liked the look. I couldn't replicate it here, and didn't try to, really, but I wanted to the atmosphere and ambiance."

While many modern depictions of hell suggest a fiery inferno, Dante's was one of ice: bodies trapped or submerged, twisting in anguish. The ninth circle, Cocytus, comprises four parts, all of which we traverse in Frankx's installation: Caina, Antenora, Ptolomaea and Judecca, holding respectively traitors to family, traitors to country, traitors to guests and finally traitors to their benefactors or lords and masters. (Each, by the way, has its own default windlight, so be sure to have that ability set properly in your viewer.) At the culmination, in the center of hell and at the lowest point of Frankx's build, we encounter Satan, looming over his realm, and also trapped in the ice. "I think we have found the boss," quipped fellow explorer Natsuki Morigi as we arrived. Cocytus: The 9th Circle of Hell will remain on display through the end of June.

10 May 2015

Life in a Bowl

Opening today, Sunday, May 10, at 12 noon slt, is Life in a Bowl, a new sim-wide installation by Cica Ghost. On this deserted tropical island, captive giant fish languidly survey the landscape, trapped inside enormous tanks and bowls. They, along with the palm trees, slowly drift about, lending the entire scene a lazy, humid atmosphere.

While many of Cica's recent creations have focused on architectural elements — Dr. Suess-like buildings that twist against the sky — here the interest is more on the local level, as the fish themselves are the curiosities: we wonder what they're thinking and whether or not they're cognizant of us. (Or, indeed, if perhaps enclosures are their homes — maybe they're not captives at all.) Life in a Bowl should remain on display for several weeks; please consider leaving a contribution to support this and forthcoming installations.

09 May 2015

Second Annual Lollygagger Lane Art Festival

Opening today, Saturday, May 9, from about noon until 6 or 7 slt, is the Second Annual Lollygagger Lane Art Festival. A number of artists who have participated in past events at Lollygagger have been invited back to create new installations and exhibitions, including Piedra Lubitsch, Kandece Weissbrod, Fae Varriale, Serra Qendra, Ziki Questi, Takni and misio2, Rob Barber, Fuschia Nightfire, and Firery Broome. (In my case, I'm displaying eleven recent works, all of which are available for purchase.)

The various installations and exhibitions are strew all over Lollygagger in small buildings (the slurl above lands you in the main gallery up on the hill), so be sure to explore thoroughly. Works by Tanki and misio2, which are some of most enjoyable (and interactive — one pictured below) are located overhead at various locations, reachable through teleports. It's the hope of the organizers that this event will help support Relay for Life — please consider making a contribution at one of the kiosks located throughout the area.

Atlas Obscura Pays a Visit

As many readers are probably already aware, Eric Grundhauser of Atlas Obscura recently spent some time exploring Second Life and published the results of his travels as Forgotten Wonders of the Digital World: Second Life. Pete Linden had been kind enough to put us in touch, and I, along with my partner Kinn, had taken Eric (as his inworld self, Baerf) on a whirlwind tour to several places in an attempt to provide a quick overview of Second Life's possibilities — The Far Away by AM Radio (photo above), Kowloon, Insilico, City Inside Out by Haveit Neox, Roche by ddsm2 Mathy (second photo), a Petrovsky flux by Cutea Benelli and blotto Epsilon at the University of Kansas's Spencer Art Museum sim, and also my home, ...riverrun..., because he was curious to see a private space (third photo, and one that Eric didn't publish).

From the start, Eric was a delight to work with and approached Second Life with an open mind, aptly describing it as "fascinating but daunting." Although his initial request was to visit "unsung or forgotten places...the older the better" we struck out to give more of a overview of possibilities, from urban to rural, from "real life" looking places to "not possible in real life" places. I'd like to extend my thanks to Eric, to Kinn, to ArtCrash Exonar (who posed in several photos, including the one above), to my friend and fellow blogger Inara Pey, who posted a lovely commentary on Eric's prose, and to the Lab for arranging the contact.

08 May 2015


Fans of the departed sim Starfall (about which I wrote here and here) will be delighted to learn that designers Nezzy (Inez Pennell) and Imp (Cinderr Resident) now invite us to visit WindWept, a water sim of great expanse, with views that stretch clear across from one side to the other. Hearkening to Starfall, the sim features clusters of large bounders and trees (many leafless, but some swaying gently in the cool breeze) emerging from the water's surface, with isolated spots here and there to sit or relax, alone or with others.

Overlooking the scene, perched on a high outcrop of rock, is a delightful and beautifully decorated coffee house that offers a chance for indoor respite. And, if you explore carefully, you'll discover its counterpart, an underground room beneath the waters. But even more awaits: near the landing point, you'll spy four windows. Clicking on them (or, at the moment, on three of the four) takes you off to other hidden environments: a park (lowest image), a seedy motel, or cosmic playground. (Presumably a fourth location is in progress.)

For photographers, the opportunity is present to rez objects by joining the land group, and Nezzy and Imp encourage you to share you views of the sim on their flickr group. (These images use the sim's default windlight setting, but several photographers have obtained excellent results with others.) Roamers of the grid will certainly appreciate the photogenic region's beauty and quietude.