I'm a big lover of art in both lives and have been since childhood. Thus it came as no surprise that when my dear friend and pet kitty Desi told me about the hidden gems in the SL art world, I jumped at the chance to go.
I've always thought that SL would make a fantastic medium for art. Here we have a world where as long as you can imagine it, you can do it. A world where we're not limited by size, shape or even physics. The only thing we're limited by is our own creativity. And still, step into this world and what do you find? Free sex areas and camping. It makes sense really, sex and money are what motivate a great deal of us in the real world but this isn't the real world. This is one that we create. So where's all the creativity? This is where Desi saved me from my own cynicsm and showed me something breathtaking - Chouchou.
Chouchou is a delicious blend of art, music and even a little cinema. In this gorgeous setting, turn on your stream and equip the HUD at the landing point (look for the black wire flower to the right as you land) and you'll be treated to a cinematic experience with beautiful music by Chouchou - an ambient (mostly instrumental) band that exists entirely in Second Life. You can find their last.fm page here to get a preview of their music and you can also download their tracks from iTunes.
Back to their in world presense though. The sim is set out with a number of small to medium sized sandbars with various large structures lying around. This may not sound all that brilliant but bump your graphics up as high as they can go and mess with your lighting settings a little and in combination with the cinematic HUD and music it becomes a breathtaking experience. You really feel as if you're in some kind of experimental film and it really is fantastic.
As well as this cinematic feel on the ground level, you can also teleport up to the concert area. Chouchou do live concerts in their own sim and the HUD has its own setting for this where it lets you stand and enjoy the music while the HUD camera pans around the area to give you an excellent view. And you'll really appreciate it, the concert area is absolutely gorgeous and I can only imagine how much more stunning it is when the band are playing. The cherry blossoms and fireflies along with the subtle glow of the almost ethereal trees that are dotted around the concert area is the perfect backdrop to such gorgeous music.
After spending at least an hour just sitting back and chatting at Chouchou, my companions and I headed to the Art Box. As the name suggests, its main focus is art but it has been transplanted into SL in a way even I would never have thought of. Frankie Rockett and his partner Violet Sweetwater (Who are possibly the nicest people I have ever met) have done an amazing thing for all of us art lovers in SL. They have painstakingly and lovingly recreated some classic and famous pieces and have opened them to the public. You can walk around some of the most well known paintings in the world but above and beyond that - you can be the subject. To the left is a picture of me as The Scream - I look quite dashing don't you think?
The range of pieces available is fantastic, all of which are hand built into SL with excrutiating detail. These are not just textures slapped on a background, these are full 3D renditions with custom poses and on some pieces, even props! If the original painting has a specific outfit to make it work, when the set rezzes you will find a box of props that will let you truly recreate the feel of the piece you're in. It's a fantastic project and the entire thing is totally free for everyone to come along and use whenever you like. If you like and appreciate the hours upon hours of hard work that has gone into the Art Box, there is a tip jar just outside of the photo area. Show your appreciation for such an awesome and original concept while you're taking pictures. Here's me looking particuarly annoyed at a cherub. It was concluded that he stole my shoes and thus deserved my scorn. Stupid cherub.
I surely have more art and things to discover and no doubt I'll be posting more to gush about even more lovely things but to start off with these two places...well, it'll be tough to beat. I leave you now with a picture I took of Desi, Nate and I relaxing on the coast at Chouchou, and the SLURLs for both of these fantastic places. Remember, if you want to support art in SL, both of these places have objects you can pay to help with the running costs. Even just a small donation can help out and will always be totally appreciated. Not only that but it makes you feel good knowing that you have contributed to something totally awesome and original in Second Life.