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Ordinarily this blog focuses on Symphony and its younger sibling, Prelude. However, today I wanted to draw your attention to Ando Joubert’s most recent build, and arguably one of his finest.

Tol Galen is one of a cluster of Elven sims, and as such, called for something fey and magical. I will leave to Ando the description of his creative process and his work with his visionary clients. He promises to write soon . . . but both real life and Second Life commitments are taking his attention right now. In the meantime, I want to share with you some of what you will find when you visit Tol Galen.

Since a picture says a thousand words, today’s post will feature pictures and captions.  Something by Enya or Secret Garden might be nice right about now.

You might want to start on the platform above the Planetarium, overlooking the entire sim.  In an Ando Joubert build, be sure to notice the details.  The sim is themed around a planetarium and there are references to the planetary bodies throughout the build.  Planets, stars and planetary motion are the build’s dominant motif, reflected in everything from teleport stations to lighting fixtures.

Tol Galen Compass Rose Platform

Tol Galen Compass Rose Platform

Down below, Sol is a spacious gallery currently featuring the luminous abstracts and sculptures of SL artist Sunn Thunders.  From Sol you can see the Pathway to the Stars, leading to the viewing platform, beneath which the Planetarium resides.  The viewing platform is where the build began . . .

Classical arches frame the pathway to the platform

Classical Arches Frame the Pathway to the Stars

I have several favorite things on Tol Galen.  Right at the top of my list, is this amazing telescope that Ando crafted, including the pose and a glimpse of the moon within.  Be sure to read the memorial plaque on the  side.

Sol Central Gallery with Ando Joubert Telescope

Sol Central Gallery with Ando Joubert Telescope

Another favorite spot is Summer Night, an ethereal meadow within the planetarium orb, and a wonderful place to get away from the cares of the world.

Summer Night

Summer Night

This is just a wee taste of a very magical place ~ one to visit with someone you love or on your own, and in all moods of your windlight day.

~ Cacie

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Ando Joubert’s taste runs to beautifully detailed, expertly executed renderings of real life places and artifacts. His inspiration for the Hopper House Gallery on Symphony was a 1925 paining by Edward Hopper, “House by the Railroad.” The painting, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, was probably based on a house in Haverstraw, NY, and was painted when Hopper was living in Nyack.

Hopper House Gallery

Hopper House Gallery

As I cleared out the previous exhibition last night, I paused for a moment to reflect on how real our experiences in Second Life are. This empty house, a virtual replica of a two dimensional replica of a real place that once housed the hopes and dreams, the daily life and desolation of other human beings, stirs the same melancholy feelings in me that one in the real world would . . . feelings that seem to have arisen in Hopper at the sight of the abandoned house he painted. It is a moody piece, its sky filled with a sense of emptiness and loss.

http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=78330

There is something evocative about empty walls . . . a sense of either abandonment or possibility. I prefer to dwell in possibility. Empty walls simply wait to be filled . . . a blank slate to accept our vision, to reflect ourselves . . . taste, memories, choices. They will quicken, spring to life, delight us again one day.

You Can Almost Hear the Sound

You Can Almost Hear the Sound

For just a few days more Hopper House Gallery stands empty. On Saturday, July 18th, her walls will be filled with the gorgeous photographs of Morgana Nagorski, a “Serenade to Symphony” ~ three floors of beautiful pieces capturing the moods and meanings of this breathtaking place. Please join us then (4 p.m., slt), or visit Hopper House Gallery in the coming month while Morgana’s photos are on display.

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The first prize for the recent Symphonic Pieces photo competition went to an amazing photographer, Morgana Nagorski. Once we became acquainted with her work, Ando and I wanted to host her at Hopper House Gallery for a single artist exhibition. So, on July 18th at 4:00 p.m. SLT, we will open “Serenade.”

I recently had the opportunity to interview Morgana about her art. Morgana is Australian. She has been making art in various media all of her life.

Morgana Nagorski

Morgana Nagorski

What led you to photography in SL?

I came to SL in October 2006. After a few weeks I started ‘playing’ with photography. Then I met someone, and everything went on hold. I started arranging shows for him, being his handmaiden, framing his pictures, hanging them, whatever.

Then in October 2007, he started working towards a show with a theme I suggested, with props and locations I found. After some thought, with much trepidation, I suddenly said I wanted it to be a joint show. He would deny that he hesitated, but the surprise was palpable! And from there my interest in photography took off.

What inspires your work?

The main inspiration is my own emotions. I am drawn to the melancholy. My heart bleeds easily. I resonate to the minor key. Symphony pictures aside, most of the rest are RAW emotion, cathartic even. I am sometimes embarrassed, but cannot help myself.

Biggest musical influence: Leonard Cohen

Artists: Klimt, Beardsley and Waterhouse as disparate as they seem

I don’t know that they are reflected in my work though, except for the angst of Leonard.

Shelter In Her Storm

What themes or topics or images excite your imagination? Where is your art going?

What excites me most is an exploration of my feelings and emotions, and my art will go more and more there even though maybe not noticeable to people who don’t know me.

How do you view Second Life?

I wish I could live there.

Why Symphony as a subject for your work? What is there about the sim that has led you to set photographs here?

The Symphony contest was suggested to me by a friend. Apart from two isolated pics, it was the FIRST time I was not shooting MYSELF. At first I thought I couldn’t. I was quite terrified really. But feeling someone thinks I cannot makes me be determined to “can”. Does that make sense?

Do you have any future projects in mind that you can share with us?

I have SO MANY series planned that I sometimes get lost in daydreaming
Just a few are
• a series based on Leonard Cohen songs
• a series revolving around images of Marilyn Monroe . . . classics photos that I would replicate in Second Life
• a flamenco and/or tango series
• erotic pics pushing the boundaries
• a series of nude men reminiscent of classical statues
• a series semi-recreating famous paintings, like the Birth of Venus or Lady of Shalott
• a series suggesting religious icons

JUST SO MANY

Your photos are primarily of human subjects . . . you in various manifestations. Why?

I find the human form beautiful. I think our avatars are a primary work of art here.
And I am the most obedient and co-operative model I know. (laughs)

On a serious level though, many of my photos are about my emotions and feelings, and what better way to express them than through my avatar?

Ahhhh . . .

Ahhhh . . .

How do you work with images offline to prepare your final photos? Do you have a preferred program for processing?

I use Photoshop. I am a novice and sort of stumble through it. But mostly my post processing is minimal. I crop and add light, and fix up the SL bits like hair poking through bodies. For the most part I try to get the shot as right as possible in SL

There are only about 1/2 dozen pics that I have manipulated, like pasting something that was not there; and usually it was . . .I just might have moved something closer for better composition, or like in the mill house ones I did that, and also painted out some things I didn’t want.

and doors

and doors

*********

I want to thank Morgana for her time and for sharing her thoughts and her art with us. Please mark your calendar for Saturday, July 18th and plan to attend the opening of “Serenade” on Symphony. Guests will receive a complimentary commemorative bottle of wine with one of the exhibit photos on the label, a hallmark of each of Morgana’s openings. The wine is courtesy of Sapphoria Shilova and Zanphoria Vineyards Exclusive Bottling. The Serenade souvenir bottle would look great in your SL home. Please join us.

~Cacie

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Prelude

Prelude

Symphony is growing! Please welcome our newest addition, Prelude. I’ve created Prelude in the same geographic vein as Symphony, bringing more of the U.S. Pacific Northwest to Second Life. The terraforming is reminiscent of a volcanic crater formation, common to the Cascade Range from British Columbia to northern California. Unlike Symphony, Prelude will feature little in the way of buildings, offering instead a park-like setting, wildlife refuge, and much more authentic marine biology.

So bring a tent (the only kind of camping you will find in the Symphony Islands), a bottle of wine, and a friend, and come visit Prelude!
-AJ

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Typically, this blog is focused on recounting the adventures of a master builder and SL architect, Ando Joubert, and his newbie builder apprentice . . . me!  As well as reviewing texture and other providers of the tools for building, offering tips for new builders and so forth. 

However, today is a special day for those of us who love Second Life’s high quality content creators.  Today is the day we honor one of our greats – Neferia Abel. 

True to form, I will focus on what this blog is all about . . . building . . . because Neferia is a consummate builder . . . of clothing and of a well remembered beautiful sim, a tribute to her Norwegian homeland.  Sadly, I have no pictures of the old sim, but many fond memories of chilling out in the little Norwegian town at the edge of the sim, or flitting about the Viking ship moored there.  Perhaps you remember it as well.  And then there were the hunts.  Nef is famous for them and for the very high quality treasures she gave away.  I think the first hunt I participated in as a new player was one of hers. One designer offering as many items as some of the collaborative hunts do now.  Amazing!  Generous!

With that in mind, I decided to model one of the goodies from this past Easter hunt.  It illustrates two things that in my estimation make Nef not only a distinguished clothes designer, but also a really great builder:  fantastic texturing and the building of arguably some of the best prim skirts in Second Life.  When you’ve moved in an Ivalde skirt, you don’t settle for anything less ever again.  Quite simply, they are fluid, graceful and beautifully constructed. 

Summer in Ivalde at Symphony

Summer in Ivalde at Symphony

The texture of this lovely dress is subtle and understated, with a lovely old fashioned quality.  The skirt . . . sorry this is a still photo  . . . moves with exactly the right feminine sway.  In this dress, there is eternal summer, when girls of all ages indulge their romantic fantasies.  A dress like this makes that possible.  No, it makes that inevitable!

There are other gowns of hers I love . . . her Marilyn Monroe dresses are to die for, especially the famous Wiggle dress in black, and I have a lovely pale green Edwardian number of hers that makes me feel like Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen.  But you can see, that even in a simple freebie, everything Neferia Abel does is executed with love and painstaking care.  And, novice builders, take note, this is exactly how it should be.  It’s all in the details.  The great builders give painstaking attention to them. 

I was sad to hear of Nef’s real life circumstances that would subtract her considerable talent and great kindness from this world of ours and absolutely thrilled to hear that friends had rallied, so that we would all still be able to indulge our Ivalde habit while she is away . . . hopefully to return in the fall.  Kudos to everyone involved in making that happen. 

Now, if only someone would do the same for Miriel Enfield.  Her extraordinary sim is soon to vanish as well, along with the best eyes, beautifully constructed jewelry, genius vendors, a stunning forest complete with bracket funghi growing on some of the most realistic trees in all of Second Life.  And Miriel made all of it . . . textures, objects, scripts.  That will sadly all be gone soon too.  This is the point in chat where I would type “/me sighs.”

Saying Goodbye at Miriel

Saying Goodbye at Miriel

We can only wish both remarkable and talented women the very best and hope that they will return to share their talents with new generations of Second Lifers.  Ladies, you will be missed in your absence.

~ Cacie

I am wearing

Dress:  Ivalde, Juliette, Lavenderros, Easter Egg 5 from 2009 hunt

Necklace:  Miriel, Limited Edition Heart, Rose Gold (made to support an ill friend)

Eyes:  Miriel, Standard Eyes, Mossy Rock (free)

Shoes:  Pixel Mode, Leeza Stilettos, white

Hair:  Damselfly, Verena, Cinnamon Warm

Skin: Belleza, Belle Medium Smokey Mocha

Nails:  Kunglers, Pearl

Shape:  my own

Poses:  Torrid Midnight

Photos taken on Symphony and on Miriel

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So . . . I caught part of an interesting program on television last night (television has taken a decidedly back seat since I discovered Second Life) called The Oprah Effect, describing the impact exposure on The Oprah Winfrey Show has had on various products, and one segment really caught my eye.  So . . . (grrr . . . there’s that “so”-logism all my thirty-something friends seem to use, beginning every other sentence with “so”). Anyway, Living Oprah is a blog written by Chicago actress (and now writer J) Robyn Okrant, chronicling a full year of living her life following the advice of Oprah Winfrey.  For one full year, Robyn watched the show, read O Magazine, and kept up with the Oprah website, culling advice about everything from what to eat, what to read, what movies to see to major life revisions and makeovers.  And she wrote about it every day, with humor, self-reflection, and commitment to the project.

The idea of Robyn’s blog (http://www.livingoprah.com) really appealed to me, so I spent a little time this morning reading both recent and early entries.  And, I can see myself going back to it regularly.  It’s well-written and interesting, plus you get some good tips on reading and recipes and all those other lifestyle things that can pull you out of your daily rut.  I’ve been making the same round of recipes for far too long.  You know, the tried and true, that you can make in your sleep.  Really good but really boring after a while.  Sooo . . . long story short, I decided to do a little bit of “Living Robyn” today.

Second Life, which used to be all about relaxing for me, has more recently become more goal-driven.  I try to take classes, from 2-3 every weekend, mostly at NCI.  I’m trying to wrap my brain around scripting, which is akin to the melon surrounding the prosciutto.  And I’m trying to make something new for Minuet, my shop on Symphony, every couple of days.  Then there’s Symphonic Notes.  Seriously, I go into every weekend with a “To Do” list, something I don’t do very often in first life, for heaven’s sake!

One of Robyn’s observations from Oprah hit home: 

“Surrender to the idea that I can’t run myself ragged and I must take time to relax.”

Now, you would think that living on Symphony I would have figured this out long ago.  The sim was built with peace and relaxation in mind, from the rocky beach with little tide pools and cozy beach log fire, to the dreamily realistic coral reef with its melancholy wrecks and myriad sea creatures.  There is the Honkyoku* Bath, with the strain of a Japanese flute (shakuhachi) rising just above the sound of the waterfall and steam rising from what is decidedly a very warm and relaxing tub.  I can almost feel the deep heat easing my knotted muscles, painful from too many hours in front of a computer.  But perhaps best of all for relaxing on Symphony is Serenity Point.  I have to say I think both Robyn and Oprah would love Serenity Point. 

Ando put in a gong that responds to the intermittent SL wind. Bronte added a Tibetan Prayer Wheel and some circling dolphins from Serenity Falls.  There are birds, butterflies, realistic waves, trees, and flowers.  Cushions for meditation or for lazily dangling your hand in the incoming surf beneath a cascading waterfall, one of four on the island.

 

Listening to the Sound of Waves

Listening to the Sound of Waves

 

It’s really a peaceful and serene place to which I have brought my friends when they were having a bad day and needed a getaway that didn’t involve airfare and a rental car.  So . . . without anything further, I’m off to Serenity Point.  I’m going to set my sun to something delicious, using the Advanced Sky settings, and just sit.  No clearing out inventory . . . that would be multitasking and 15,000 items is not too many.  I met a woman yesterday who carts around over 100,000.  I didn’t even think that was possible.  I’ll just sit and relax and dream and revel in the fact that Second Life affords these wonderful resources for taking time to relax and smell the virtual roses.  Thanks, Robyn!  And, as always, thanks, Ando!

 

Serenity Point with Seagull

Serenity Point with Seagull

 

Visit Symphony by typing Symphony into your world map.  The Photo Contest ends June 5th. 

~ Cacie

*Honkyoku (本曲, “original pieces”) are the pieces of shakuhachi or hocchiku music played by mendicant Japanese Zen monks called komusō. Komusō played honkyoku for enlightenment and alms as early as the 13th century.  (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

A few notes on some of the creators of Serenity Point and Honkyoky Bath items.  

Waterfalls, Bath House spa, Japanese Garden Lantern: Ando Joubert; Monarch Butterflies, Emerald Forest tree, Emerald Forest Willow:  Straylight; Critters: natural rabbit, seal from Sculpty Creations; Dolphins:  Julia Hathor; Jay, Loon, Seagulls, Hummingbirds:  Animania; Koi Japanese Scroll:  Hosoi Ichiba; Japanese flute:  Max Pitre; flower field: Mikatsuki Matova (forest feast); Stump:  Truth Hawks; Maritime Pine, Broom, Birch, Olive and other trees:  Lilith Heart; Meditation Cushion (free): Acacia Merlin; Old Bench:  Mystery Moonlight; Sounds:  Cardinal and Mourning Doves, SoundBrite; Tibetan Prayer Wheels: Donk Kongo; Chinatown Wind Gong:  Chelsea Malibu; Poses: wade and daydream, TorAn Cruyff; Candles: Naiman Broome.

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Mill House Water Pump and Old Wood Bucket

Mill House Water Pump and Old Wood Bucket

Ando and I both love textures that are a little rough around the edges.  Old brick with patches of moss, crumbling plaster exposing the underlying wood lathes, peeling paint on a wind weathered door – objects that have become venerable with use or have decayed through neglect – a rusty bucket, broken stone path, abandoned rowboat.  There is a name for all of these, an aesthetic.  The Japanese call it wabi sabi, which roughly translated (no pun intended) means ‘rustic beauty.’

Wabi sabi is the unsophisticated and humble beauty we associate with places in the American Southwest, with Provence and Tuscany, and, of course, with rural Japan.  It is applied to the rough-hewn object, strangely beautiful in its simplicity and humility.  Made of natural materials and by hand or by nature, of wood, stone, clay, metal, wabi sabi objects are unpretentious but able to evoke rich aesthetic feelings, a sense of the transitory nature of life and the inevitability of change.  Easily overlooked, wabi sabi objects reward the observant eye with a rich aesthetic feeling.

An oft-quoted poem by William Carlos Williams captures this simplicity and serenity.

 

so much depends

upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain

water

beside the white

chickens

 

Wabi sabi conjures a world that is imperfect and transient, and a meditative acceptance and serene appreciation of that reality.

Honkyoku Bath House with Flute Playing

Honkyoku Bath House with Flute Playing

Ando and I notice we are not alone in this appreciation.  In a world like Second Life that can so easily present objects that look brand spanking new, a surprising number of builds have this very quality, and texture makers like Jewell Lamourfou of Distressed Textures provide ample materials for us to use to recreate the worn, the rustic, the abandoned, both natural and man-made – to recreate, in the timeless world of Second Life, the marks of time’s passage.  (Visit her shop to see an extensive collection of wabi sabi textures.)  This beauty in imperfection is an antidote to the all too perfect world of Second Life.

Detail from Lighthouse Interior

Detail from Lighthouse Interior

Visitors to Symphony will find wabi sabi elements throughout the sim.  The Lighthouse, Mill House and Honkyoku Bath House are all good examples.  Please stop by for a visit sometime soon.  And let me know what you think about wabi sabi.  Arigato.

~Cacie

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