Ekphrasis: the Spirit of claudia222 Jewell

This exposition for me is the letting go of a long period of grief, to let the spirits pass, and to start anew in peace.

'Spirit' by claudia222 Jewell, at Art Screamer. Photo by PJ Trenton.

If you’ve not yet heard of claudia222 Jewell, 1) you’ve been missing out, and 2) you are in luck. In just one year, she has become one of the most talked about – and beloved – artists on the grid. But it is only now that she has made her first full sim installation, which opens today at Art Screamer, 12pm (mesh viewer required)!

Claudia introduces the work this way:

spirit is a full sim installation by claudia jewell, inspired by bosch, created with mesh, and loved for all eternity

'Spirit' by claudia222 Jewell, at Art Screamer. Photo by PJ Trenton.

‘So Bosch is your inspiration?’ I asked her at last night’s press preview. ‘Is this your Garden of Earthly Delights?’

She answered in her delightful European accent (I love how these things come through in text):
Yes… maybe a whole life I admire the way he showed things around him… I dream one day to make big parts of it, but I am still in my own mind… I want to not copy him, more make a heap lot of avatars inspired by him in a more contemporary way… [she smiles] imagine all have to be a part of the installation as avatars. I would just make some avatars maybe get others that make mesh to make some also… it could be incredible… to be a part of a painting.

The artist wearing her 'Spirit' avatar, at Art Screamer. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Claudia has already made that kind of immersive experience possible by creating a stunning mesh avatar (see picture above) which she is giving away free to visitors, so that they may don it and become part of the work.

The place itself is indeed a Garden of Earthly Delights… as I told Claudia, her work fascinates me because she creates things which seems like they should be ugly, but are strangely beautiful (language she herself uses to describe and title her work, as in ‘Strange Plant… Ugliness and Beauty’, which took 4th place at the year’s UWA final). There is a darkness in her work, and a primordial sense of life dawning as well, as if we are looking at the most ancient history of our world… or perhaps the post-apocalyptic rise of new life.

'Spirit' by claudia222 Jewell, at Art Screamer. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Bosch drives her vision in the same manner it inspired the Surrealists, with contortions and reconfigurations of the human body that are as disturbing as they are sublime. There is also an aspect of her work which almost reminds me of Art Nouveau in the way in which it conflates the body with nature, as people and plants merge, butterfly wings grace the tops of reeds that stretch from the water, and faeries made from whiplash curves flit about.

At the same time, however, her work expresses the weighty substance of the Symbolists; like them, Claudia does not provide us with a detailed meaning or narrative, and yet her work begs us for thoughtful interpretation. I would not argue that there is any specific story here (although I’m sure a more creative writer than myself could easily craft one), only a general sense of life, death, and spirit which reflects the artist’s own psychological state.

'Spirit' by claudia222 Jewell, at Art Screamer. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Curator Zachh Cale describes the installation:

Several dramatic vignettes mark the landscape, with intense emotion, natural elements, and strong spiritual presence.  Although technology plays a role in the composition, it does so quietly and with devotion to its purpose. However in production and technique, the technology is cutting edge. Claudia pushes the boundaries of the medium by making mesh work in extraordinary ways that few others have mastered in sl.

I agree, and in doing so she has managed to transcend all those bumps of figural construction via prims that so many other artists have struggled with (unsuccessfully in my opinion). Now the audience is freed from that awkwardness of construction, and her vision comes through strongly, which I think is particularly important for ‘Spirit’: ‘This is for me a maybe more personal build,’ she reflected. ‘I don’t intend to shock, I just don’t want to hide that there is sad or ugly things in life too.’

'Spirit' by claudia222 Jewell, at Art Screamer. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Claudia, who is a successful artist in the physical world (‘It’s in my blood to express with paint color ink’ she says), taught herself to render in 3D when she was faced with loss in her personal life. ‘Spirit’ is, in my opinion, that manifestation of her own strength of spirit, which turned her grief into a positive creative force, rather than a destructive one.

In fact, it is this positivity that helped her master mesh so early, as she actually left to the beta grid for a while after her early work was copy-botted, again, turning a negative situation into an opportunity to learn something new. Claudia has embraced mesh with enthusiasm, and feels it enables her to work in ways she couldn’t before: ‘It’s like this [way of] modeling and make avatars is what I always wanted… I always faked light and shadow to get it appear 3D, so this is the most near of what I want to do!’

She has certainly found success, judging by the exclamation of fellow mesh disciple (or possibly guru) Max Graf when he arrived at the preview last night: ‘omg claudia….its like HP Lovecraftian, in its brilliance….like the old gods have come to SL. Cthulu, shog sothoth, etc.’ This is high praise from such a master of fantasy!

'Spirit' by claudia222 Jewell, at Art Screamer. Photo by PJ Trenton.

I wanted to know a bit more about her creative process, whether she made sketches for her work first, or just threw herself into it.

‘All out of head… I dont use any pictures. I model them in a clay way in a 3d program then make a better [retouch] when I have time and make the textures by using lights materials and different ambient lights… just little colors added… rest drawn on, then many steps in photoshop extending textures to fix seams [she smiles] …rigs made it a lot harder, had to do custom weight paints so its different… but I managed a little and will sure learn more.’

She then pointed out one of the most amazing parts of ‘Spirit’ (seen above): ‘There is a bot a half sim size big – one mesh – and you will maybe not see it for ages… it looks like a gray kite [before it renders]… but is a huge huge ghost. It’s so huge its hard to render in some viewers… when we are near it will render more likely.’ She in fact thought a great deal about render costs, and I have to say everything rezzed for me fairly quickly – and I don’t have the greatest graphics. ‘I made sure it has not much rendercosts here and is not filled, should be able to hold much avatars [she grinned] with hair and all!’

Me & the Screamers: Chestnut Rau, Rowan Derryth, Zachh Cale, Claudia Jewell, and Amase Levasseur at 'Spirit'. Photo by PJ Trenton.

Art Screamer, by the way, is owned and sponsored by three people who, in my opinion, are amongst the greatest curators and arts patrons in SL: Zachh Cale, Amase Levasseur, and Chestnut Rau. Join their group to keep up on the fantastic installations they are hosting (I wrote about their inaugural exhibit with Glyph Graves back in August – an auspicious way to start!). Keep your eye on this place for the very best in virtual art!

‘Spirit’ opens TODAY (Saturday the 11th) at 12pm SLT. Not to be missed!

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See all of PJ Trenton’s beautiful photos of this exhibit at his flickr set.

One comment

  1. I waited forever for the huge mesh figure to render on my screen, and it stubbornly stayed in kite form. But then another visitor advised me to fly very close to the kite and it would “pop in.” That did the trick.

    This piece brought to mind some of the images I saw at this RL art show last week:
    If you’re in the Los Angeles area, don’t miss it.

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