Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Real Life Artist in Second Life


How can we know the dancer from the dance?

William Butler Yeats

          Recently, I had the good fortune to be invited by Michiel Seetan, my Second Life (SL) friend, back to Alanis Gallery for a champagne reception held for the opening of the paintings and drawings of Ray Leaning, a Real Life (RL) artist specializing in erotic works. 
          While Ray Leaning has had his work exhibited at Alanis before, this exhibition is entitled Ballerinas & Dancers and comprises twenty-two works focused exclusively on dance. 
          Readers may recall, I recently blogged about the erotic art collection at Alanis.  I guess Michiel liked the story because he asked to cover this event.  Being a struggling writer, I never pass up an opportunity to drink someone else’s champagne even if virtual and readily agreed.  (For those of you who are worried about my journalistic ethics, I do have some, please be reminded that I only focus on the positive inworld.  So, if this wasn’t a good story, I wouldn’t have written it.  So there!) 
          I rezz into the Alanis Gallery as the reception is just getting started.  I wear my usual attire for SL cultural events, tee shirt, jeans, and sneakers.  (Significant Other continually reminds me that one of the ideas behind SL is that we do what we don’t do in RL. But, hey, I’d fit into SOHO in Manhattan.  So what’s the big deal?)
          The event is being held at the main arrival hall in the gallery.  A large champagne fountain dominates the scene.  The Alanis Gallery Angels are doing their living statues performance and add an air of spectacle to the event.  Staff pass through offering glass flutes filled with champagne.  (Alanis is definitely a class act.) 
           A little about the artist, Ray Leaning before I get too far into the evening’s social festivities.  Ray was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1959.  He attended the Art Foundation at Grimsby, has a BA (Honors) in Fine Art from Exeter, and a PGCE in Art and Design from Brighton. His first monograph, MUSE The Art of Ray Leaning, was published in 2004 and is now out of print.  Ray is known for his figure work in pencil, conte, and oils.  (Many examples of which can be found on his website.)  His work has been exhibited in London, Brighton, Edinburgh, Miami, Montreal, Antwerp, Berlin, Brussels, and many small galleries across the United Kingdom.  In other words, he’s the real deal. 
          In addition, to exhibiting in RL, Ray exhibits in SL at the Alanis Gallery where he very generously makes the proceeds from the sale of his pictures available for its upkeep. 
          Unfortunately, Ray is not with us tonight but many others are.  I’d also like to comment on how despite the presence of several dozen avatars many wearing a lot of prims (Even those without clothes, those attractive features don’t come cheaply from a system’s perspective.) there was no noticeable lag. 
          The guests are dressed in a variety of styles from formal to what’s called business casual Stateside these days.  (Yes, I am the low end of the dress code.  Significant Other remarks that even the nude guests are better dressed than me.) 
          I’m not here for an interview so I mingle with the other guests.  Michiel and I do meet and exchange quick greetings.  He’s running around as the host doing what hosts do.  I do manage to meet his partner, Sylvia Fitzpatrick, in Alanis Gallery and have a few words with her before her duties as hostess pull her away.  (And, not as Significant Other suggests, she was trying to get away from me.)  Sylvia tells me how because of Alanis’s reputation and the care they take with the RL artists who exhibit there they are able to attract artists of this caliber. 
          Sylvia talks about Ray Leaning’s work and explains how good it is.  She feels that he can’t be pigeon holed and is so varied in subject matter.  Sylvia continues that Ray is not afraid to be less than candid.  She believes too many 'erotic artists' are a little one dimensional.  Sylvia describes how this collection demonstrates the eroticism of the dance especially the Tango.  However, she cautions that it takes more than a cursory glance and quick thrill to appreciate Ray’s works and that he is greatly underrated.  The appreciation of these works is all in the mind in her opinion.  Adding that perhaps less is more is becoming more relevant to our jaded eye, rather than grasping at more and more graphic images. 
          We share a few words of commiseration about the lost art of letter writing in the Age of the Internet.  While Sylvia is nostalgic over not being able to see emails tied up with ribbon to enjoy years later, she does feel that emails can be very sensual themselves. 
          After leaving my hostess, I get on to what I’m here for which is looking at Ray Leaning’s pictures hanging on the walls.  Don’t worry, I recognize my limitations as an art critic and I won’t say anything which reflects my ignorance in the matter.
          However, to paraphrase some long dead US Supreme Court justice, I know art when I see it.  This evening I see it and it is impressive.  Ray’s works cover ballerinas and Tango dancers. Ray is known as an erotic dancer but despite many of his subjects being clothed, he captures the sensuality of their bodies and their movements which seem to life themselves from their canvasses or paper and meld into the three dimensional world of SL. 

          His use of color and shadow draws the observer’s eyes to the pictures and holds it.  His nudes are discreet and lack the vulgarity of some others’ works but still capture the imagination and make one think of the story told by the picture.
          The theme of this collection is dance and it contains a sensuality which even a Degas didn’t possess.  (I know I’m going to get into trouble with that last comment.) 
          Please remember that my art commentary is the product of someone who grew up looking at black and white pictures in books of great works of art, who didn’t truly appreciate it when he finally did see many of these in RL, and who now regrets the wasted opportunities.  So, apologies to any whom I may offend.  It’s not my intention. 
          To my mind, the evening has been a great success.  A wonderful crowd of art lovers have come together, seen new pictures introduced into SL, and have enjoyed these and themselves. 
          RL art is being introduced into SL and I suspect that SL art is going back there too.  Can art be looked at as simply being either RL or SL in origins?  Is there a convergence occurring?  Will someday we look back in amusement at the distinctions we make today?  Will virtual worlds become an important part of aspiring artists’ efforts to become known?  It’s probably too soon to tell but I believe we’re seeing some fundamental changes in the RL art world being brought about by SL. 
           I strongly recommend everyone to go Alanis Gallery and view Ray Leaning’s works as well as all the other artists on display.  (Be warned some may be NSFW.) 
          I’d like to thank Michiel for his very kind invitation to the exhibition’s opening.  I’d also like to thank Sylvia for taking the time to talk with me about the exhibition despite all that was going on around us.  They do a wonderful job running Alanis Gallery and have assembled an impressive collection of erotic art there. 
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 
Below I’ve included with the permission of Alanis Gallery a few links to pictures of the reception and Ray Leaning’s pictures.  Pictures are fun but, trust me on this, go visit for yourself, see all the art work, and have a great time! 
I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at . 

          If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
please click here. 


Photo No. 10  Ray Leaning’s 358 Rumba


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