I am not a big fan of quotes; mostly because it seems like people are attached to them without actually applying them in their lives, or considering them deeply in terms of their consequences. Nevertheless, I want to open this piece by a quote from Maya Angelou – not just because her loss is tremendous to the literary scene, but also because this month’s guest is one that fits this quote beautifully: “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
I was introduced to Sina’s work a little over a year ago. In one of my late night explorations of Flickr, I saw a portrait of this amazing avatar. As I have said over and over before, artists tend to have avatars that stand out, and are not simply a beautiful doll. The portrait I saw certainly had those qualities – just an amazing creation. I tried to find her, and once I did it all made sense. Her artwork stand out as she does. First, the work seems exceptionally mature for someone so young. Typically, an artist starts in this young untrained voice where sometimes it is even hard for them to distinguish a work that has been refined and polished from one that is just emotional vomit. To have developed the skill to create thoughtful expressions of emotion takes time and maturity. Secondly, her artistic creation really took flight in SL, which is a topic that is of particular interest to me but I will leave the details of why and how to my next rambling.
As you know, I often ask my guests to take a picture of us. And, unless they refuse (yes one or two have), we end up with a picture of us which I always treasure. Sina was one of those who were kind enough to find time to let me visit her studio and partake in a photo shoot with her.
Leda Carter: It is great to see you again, Sina. And, I have to say it again – you have one of the coolest avatars around.
Sina Souza: Oh, thank you very much *smiles* Great to see you too.
Leda: Thank you for letting me visit your studio.
Sina: Welcome. This is my empty art box! *laughs* Here I create all of my images.
Leda: Then this is a perfect place to talk about the creative process. Usually, do you already have in mind the image you are seeking to create?
Sina: Yes, mostly I have the concept in my mind, the rough look of the Image. Then, I search for the perfect pose, objects and windlight for the location. I buy my props because I am not the best builder. *laughs* The search for things can be pretty hard and claims a lot of my time. Then, the rest of the work I do in Photoshop. Sometimes, the end result is different from the concept I had at the beginning. It’s like a happy accident then.
Remember Me by Sina Souza
Leda: I am curious if you are an artist in RL as well?
Sina: Yes, because I think that all artists in Second Life are also artists in Real Life. Second Life is only our platform, our tool to create our Works of Art. Just because a painter uses a brush or a musician plays an instrument, that does not mean we are not a RL artist, because we use a digital medium. Our brush is just the computer mouse!
Leda: I understand the similarity in conceptual terms. But, I was wondering if what you do in RL related to your SL life at all, and whether SL opened a door for you to free your creativity?
Sina: In RL, I work in the medical field. It’s totally different to my creativity in SL. It’s a pretty tough job, exhausting and stressful. With my SL Work, I can calm down and relax.
The Laws of Nature by Sina Souza
You know, joining SL was actually more of a spontaneous decision that emerged from boredom. Although I had read about SL a little bit, I had not exactly understood what it was. So, I just signed up and explored this foreign world. I initially tried many things, for example dancer, model, and manager of a club. But, to create images became my big love here in Second Life!
Leda: How did you discover this great love? Was it something you actively pursued?
Sina: No, that was not planned. Honestly, at first I had no plan at all * laughs* I would explore a lot of different sims and thus, I came across some great Galleries. For example, the Gallery of Anita Witt who blew me literally away with the quality of the images. From this day on, I wanted to work out to be sometime just as good.
Burning Inside by Sina Souza
Leda: Have you taken any of your SL art pieces you make to RL?
Sina: I don’t taken any of my art in RL, but you can buy prints of some of my works at Fineartamerica.com. And, my mother bought some of my works there! I thought about an RL exhibition, but when I do it, I will do it only as anonymous person.
I do not like being the center of anything. I am somewhat retracted in away, and do not want the hustle & bustle around myself. My paintings are often very personal and it should stay that way without knowing who is behind these images.
Leda: Is your thinking that it adds strength to the impact if the artist is unknown, or is it simply a personal preference to remain anonymous?
Sina: Good question! I do think that it makes the work interesting, because you just do not know much about the artist, about his motives. But, it is also a personal attitude. Not everyone wants such intimate things to be freely accessible for everyone.
Identity Crisis by Sina Souza
Leda: Do you see any particular relationship between art and technology? For example, one could suggest that technology has made art more accessible to people.
Sina: Absolutely! Second Life is the best example for this. I guess if I had not tried out Second Life, then I would never have become so interested in art. I often meet people here who are fascinated when I show them the big art scene here in SL. Before that, they were only in clubs for example – dancing, flirting and that kind of stuff. Now, they explore exhibitions, art Installations and so on.
Leda: How did you learn the technical aspects of being a digital artist?
Sina: At the beginning, I downloaded Gimp and looked at two or three tutorials on YouTube. After that, I’ve just tried it by myself. I’ve clicked everything to see what effect it brings to the setting. After I could deal with Gimp, I bought PhotoShop, and learned it the same way as Gimp. It was more of a self-study and a lot of invested time. But it was all worth it. *smiles*
In the Crosshair of A Nation by Sina Souza
Leda: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Sina: My images are mainly reflections of my mind. Childhood memories, adventures and experiences of my environment. I lived all my life in a deprived area with a high crime rate and witnessed my father only as an alcoholic. That was a tough time for me; it is also reflected in my pictures. Because of that, I see many things with different eyes and from different perspectives. Also, I’m probably also self-critical, as well as critical of society when it comes to the subjects of my images. I love to encourage people – with my images – to think, even if it does not always work *winks*
Leda: As I mentioned before, your avatar has such a unique style too. Does your style reflect your personal taste in RL?
Sina: Yes, I absolutely love this style. But, this does not mean that I’m running around in RL as a robot *laugh* You could realize a lot of themes and ideas with this science-fiction look. But, in RL, I walk around differently and am rather not so happy experimenting, because otherwise everyone would laugh at me on the street!
It’s A Matter of Perspective by Sina Souza
Leda: Tell us a little something about the person behind the avatar.
Sina: I think I’m a minimalist, because I am satisfied with the small things in life which, fortunately, are available to me. But, when it comes to work, I’m a perfectionist and a workaholic. Otherwise, I am – I think – a very sociable person with whom you can laugh and have fun. I love summer and hate winter *chuckles* and I feel good when I have the time to hang out with friends, to make a bit of nonsense together.
Leda: What keeps you coming back to SL?
Sina: The work on my images and the creativity of the people in SL. It’s fantastic what the community creates. All the great sims, installations, exhibitions, sculptures, images, or SL concerts. It’s always fun to explore this large wingspan of creative results and to meet all these people of different cultures and nations.
In SL, I most of all I enjoy working on my pictures though. For me, this is a perfect counterbalance to calm down from the daily stress. I can thereby turn off all my worries of RL, and can do something with my creativity. It is definitely a way to feel better.
Leda: Does anything in SL relate to your RL?
Sina: I keep my real life mostly from SL, because I want to be evaluated only on the basis of my work. I do not want minus or plus points of others, just because of my personality or my look. Apart from that, I take the creativity of SL into RL, and SL is also a very good opportunity to keep your English up-to-date!
Leda: It has been such a pleasure to visit with you. And, thank you for this wonderful picture of us. I love it!
For those of you interested in exploring more of Sina’s work, in addition to her Flickr stream, she has contributed work to the Arts in Hats Exhibition, which just started today! Also, there is an exhibition in conjunction with the fabulous Bryn Oh – called Technology – which is at the Station Skywalk Gallery. Finally, you can visit Sina’s own gallery called Mind Factory.