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[Grab By The Horns]


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GBTH Magazine #5
Jul. 2021



Soooo… Whiskey Monday. I’ve known your work for awhile and it hits so close to home – the honesty in your images, subjects and how you end up blurring the line between second and first lives have a lot to do with it. When I asked earlier today if you’d be down to answer a couple of questions I was still debating which approach should be taken on this interview because there is literally so much I want to ask, so I’ll try my best to narrow them down.

Thanks, because no one likes to talk about themselves. (The sarcasm is implied.)



MM: What made you start using Second Life as a creative platform? I noticed a gap of three-ish years between the creation of your account and the first upload in your Flickr. Has the final result always been images and have you always dabbled into surrealism?

WM: I had a crap laptop when I joined SL in 2006. The first several years of my second life
were spent with a draw distance of 8 and my cam zoomed in on the floor so I could chat. I couldn’t rezz skies or trees or see much of anything. But I made friends, and they kept me logging in. Since it was words that made me happy, I didn’t really know about or care about the creative visual side of SL.

It was actually 6 years into this limited SL experience when a dear friend sent me a gaming laptop. It sounds dramatic but it’s true – it changed my life. I could see water and sky and windlights and shadows. It was magic. I fell in love with SL all over again, this time visually. It was so beautiful, I felt like I needed to snap photos, and only for myself.

I have never been a visual artist, but I have been surrounded by them all of my life. My mom has painted, sculpted, and explored all types of art mediums forever. Our home was always a working art studio, and my mom’s work is intensely topical and personal. Expressing yourself through art was normal and expected. For me, it was writing.

From the very beginning, my SL images have been driven by words. My life is one long novel; I am surrounded by words and phrases. I started creating photo sets in SL to visually work through text in my head. I think my images are surreal because that’s how I think and how I see the world. Surrealism isn’t odd to me, it’s comfortable. It feels more at home than realism.

MM: In your work, you talk openly about depression, mental health and family issues. Second Life is a place where it either seems like people tend to avoid talking about such subjects, implying that the grid is an escape room to fantasy land, or then it is brought up in a romanticized way, feeling forced, irresponsible and monochromatic tit pics. How would you describe your approach to these themes in your images?

WM: I am very open about these topics because I don’t know how to be any other way. My entire life has been impacted by mental illness, addiction, and family trauma. To deny speaking of it would be to deny my very self. It never occurred to me to keep these things secret or to be ashamed of them; I write about these topics on the norm and so it’s only natural that they would be such a big part of my SL visual art. While I do see the appeal of anonymity and escape in SL, I prefer to be me, wholeheartedly and without reservation.  Authenticity is important in art. Without, it’s just pretty pictures or banal prose. Why bother? I don’t have time or heart for that.

Ultimately, I need to, want to, SAY SOMETHING. I want to get it out there, to tell my story. As is often the case when your story involves trauma, sometimes it’s easier to tell it in pieces and parts, to get close to it all and then back off to gain distance again. To tell the whole story is to be too naked and vulnerable, and it can be too shocking for others to hear. So I use SL to add bits of my story. In a way, it’s easier than writing; perhaps the once-removed nature of SL makes me feel more confident. So maybe I do appreciate the escape of SL, after all.


MM: In Other Wor(L)ds is your newest exhibition, presented here at the 2D Gallery, in the GBTH. I remember in our conversations your sort of concern that photography in SL can be seen as somewhat “less” than installations and environments, and this stayed in the back of my head until now. I know your home, Whiskey Shots, is open to the public and so are the setups for your pictures, for a short period of time. Do you think it would make sense to display these setups as part of future shows?

WM: Part of the process in my SL art is to delete the scene after I shoot the photo. I have tried, in the past, to leave them up and invite others to come explore them and take their own images in them. It was fun, but it wasn’t very successful. Perhaps it’s the surreal leanings of my work that prevent others from really connecting with the sets? I also feel that 99% of the images taken in SL are meant to be pretty. I don’t care much about that (it bores me), and my sets are often not especially “attractive.” I’m more interested in telling some sort of narrative, and often I’m the only one who really sees what I’m saying. And that works for me, as I am the only one who needs to get the story. I appreciate that art is open to interpretation of the viewer and I don’t much care if they get the exact feeling or impression I’m trying to capture. I hope they can relate, but my main goal is purely selfish – it’s therapeutic for me.

MM: Thank you so much for accepting our invitation to exhibit here and for the opportunity of working together. Last but not least, is there any advice or anything else you’d like to add?

WM: I’m a writer; I always have more to say. I do have one piece of advice, passed along from other artists since the beginning of time: You decide if your work is art and you decide that you are an artist. It has nothing to do with school, or sales, or whether your art is admired. Anyone creating art is responding to a desire to make seen that which is not, to offer up the unknown self to others. If your work comes from a place within you that is real and true, then how can it not be art?

Thank you for the opportunity to really push the boundaries between first and seconds lives. It’s been a great experience, and I only wanted to quit around twenty times. Your support and encouragement, Marina, has been invaluable, and is the only reason this show is happening. Thank you.