During the pandemic I watched Francisco Alvarado experiment, play with, be challenged by the digital world of art. Characters popped up in his work based on himself and others. He was telling the story of life on lockdown, his heritage, our ever changing and dangerous world and how he deals with all of this. Using various 3D programs he created models who emulate ourselves but are always searching for a better world. The virtual one? These characters cope, adjust, survive. Francisco escaped the physical world of painting to tell a deeper story of resilience and perseverence. The story is always growing and changing, but so does life.
I immediately saw a connection with my own work in the virtual world of Second Life. I created my character Gracie Kendal at a time when I was suffocating in life, struggling to thrive and just plain lost. Gracie helped me survive, experiment, play, love. She told my story of my eating disorder and helped me understand it. I used Gracie to cope with life and grow.
This is an online two-person exhibition between Francisco and myself where we tell the stories of how we survive through/with/by/because of our art.
~Kristine Schomaker, Curator
The last couple of years have been a lot for everyone. Rather than moving on the pandemic has morphed int a new form of a virus compounded by inflation, a conflict in Europe and now travel chaos.
Concentrating is hard, making decisions difficult and take a lot of willpower to keep going.
What I needed is a way to rest and reset my brain. A soft reset, like spending time in nature; creating art and various form of mindfulness.
I had a chance to visit Cambria for a couple of days, the walks along the beach looking at the sea was fascinating and beautiful, not demanding full focus. Not really thinking on any particular task but open to unexpected connections and insights.
That night As I was stepping into the shower I caught my reflection in the shower door. I wanted to recreate that moment in a painting. Not really a self-portrait but to express the joy of being here – alive. A MEME came to mind, so I started to create a character using 3D digital tools.
The pandemic had pushed me to reevaluate how I create and show my work. For me, Remote Work was a change Here to Stay even as me moved past the pandemic.
Returning to LA I had began to work on a new virtual collaboration project (CR13)- “Call and Response” is a project organized by Kristine Schomaker and her team at Shoebox Arts. I enjoyed this work and the artists participating on the various cycles brough new ways of creating work and sharing it online internationally.
It gave me the opportunity to be technically creative in a time when the world was a mess. I realized I was not restricted to the wall of a Gallery anymore and continue to develop digital images and characters.
During the pandemic I started working on a new phase with my digital work, or should I say went back to my 3D Modeling artwork with new tools and a new perspective.
I started to learn and experiment with Artificial Reality AR APPS – manually creating regenerative art, incorporating original paintings and 3D Models. This work – Characters were exhibited online in Group Exhibitions and others posted to Social Media like Instagram and Facebook.
Don Quixote 3.0 – DQ3.0
A virtual citizen of the world, soldier, traveler, artist, and tinkerer. I created a Meme DQ3.0 after a trip to Cambria. Currently trying to deal with the real world wandering the virtual world in a Physically restricted world of COVID.
Sage – Warmi
The arcane creature wise and fierce also known as Warmi (woman). Inspired by a conversation of a Mask -used in a diorama on my desk.
Chasqui – Chaski
Messenger of the empire, trained to read and translate code to each other and higher authorities. Also, a people coordinator.
Research scientist at the XG Space Platform and award-winning educator on social media.
A fictional character in a fictional Range in South America. Inspired by my grandson love of felines – a member of a group of human-like felines.
I look forward to working with this virtual process to see where the story takes me. The story keeps growing and changing… It’s coming together.
In my new media work I use avatars as vehicles for commentary on stereotypes, judgment and criticism. Specifically, I am bringing more attention to the obsession our society has with physical appearance. Los Angeles is often the hub of this obsession, typified by stars and models with eating disorders, plastic surgeons on every corner and advertisements defining the paragon of beauty.
The social fabric of society is becoming increasingly virtualized (Facebook/twitter) and metaverse environments are a new medium, pioneering new artistic directions and concepts.
My work deals with the process of becoming self-aware while living in a media-saturated, technologically advancing society. It is symbolic of the personal anxiety and loss of identity occurring in a world where visually aggressive advertisements dictate who you are supposed to be. In this environment I find it difficult to be comfortable in my own skin. My sense of self has become dislodged and torn apart.
I explore notions of online identity. I specifically look at the construction of avatars, the community they inhabit and blurring the lines between digital media and the physical world to look at culture in a new way. How do avatars question and expose commonly held assumptions about stereotypes, judgment, self-awareness and those marginalized by race, gender, sexual preference and physical appearance? How do these digital bodies we inhabit open up new worlds, new politics, new communities and new realities?
In 2006, my aunt and uncle read an article in Spin Magazine about musicians who play concerts to people all over the world from the comfort of their homes. They are able to do this by creating avatars and logging into the virtual world of Second Life. It didn’t take long for my aunt and uncle to join. Within a couple weeks they called me up. “You have got to check out Second Life. We have met so many artists and musicians. You will love this place.”
That day I joined Second Life, created an avatar and started exploring this vast new world. Within 2 weeks, I had a little condo, became an art collector, started my own art gallery and had a huge wardrobe. I became a celebrated artist, curator, art organizer and made a name for myself.
When I created my avatar, Gracie Kendal, I had no idea I would be looking so deeply into identity, both on a very personal level and publicly. At that time, I was suffocating in my life. I was working on my Master’s Degree, had a full time job, I was living with my parents to save money and hardly creating any art. My life changed the first time I logged into Second Life.
Second Life offers people the freedom to explore changing identity dynamics. Experimentation is welcome. It is a safe environment which allows unlimited freedom to express oneself and consider boundaries/barriers that aren’t readily accepted in the physical world. Michael Gibbons in an article Avatars for Art Monthly wrote, “Computer screens are becoming the new location for our fantasies… The immateriality of cyberspace dissolves not only space and time, but our identities as well. For some this is a frightening prospect, for others perhaps the beginnings of a new empowerment.”
How cool is it for people to actually get a second life? For those who have been residents of the amazing world of Second Life, whether for a few hours, weeks, months or many years… we ‘get it.’ We understand what it means to don a persona, an identity – a mask – and become someone else, either to explore another aspect of ourselves or find our true self. Avatars are amazing inventions. Just like Halloween, Carnival or masquerades, we can be brave, open and imaginative without judgement or criticism.
I have always believed that the avatar was a mask that we use to hide ourselves in order to truly show ourselves. While I was shooting your avatars, I saw so much life, so much humanity, so much reality – from smiles to gestures to dancing to hair and hats, to the smallest details of steampunk, dragons, and goth – I wanted to share this with everyone.