Last weekend I drove three hours south to visit with Virginia in her nursing home. I was greeted to the sound of crows cawing in the sky as the south of Ontario, down by Chatham, (unlike where I am from in Toronto) is strangely full of them. Occasionally huge flocks fill the sky. I wanted to tell Virginia how the exhibit was doing. I told her that it has been seen by close to ten thousand people so far and often are ranging from school groups to individuals who also suffer and can relate to her struggles. I told her that the guests come from all parts of the world and then read to her personal messages some have asked me to relay.
When I created this work I wanted to build something that was beyond a portrait. I imagined being in the Louvre and looking upon the 2D painting of the Mona Lisa. I thought about how that picture has for so long captured the worlds imagination and caused people to ask.. who does she smile to? I have looked at the background of the painting and let my eye wander the curving path up the hill behind her and wondered where it might go. What I wanted to try with Virginia was to create a portrait that allows us to turn and see who receives the smile or perhaps allows us to follow the path up the hill into the trees and fields. I wanted a portrait with sounds, movement and duration and the freedom to explore and discover how we wish. I wanted to depict a subtle fragment of her unreality, these things only a virtual environment can offer.
I explained to Virginia that in Santa Fe there were people walking through a recreation of her home and looked upon her face as they entered. But what I find most interesting about this work is how it transcends location. I have spoken to people living in places like Morocco whose environment is far removed from the lakes and trees depicted in this environment. They have never heard the haunting sound of a loon calling at night or even recognize the style of house Virginia lived in. A house built for bitter winters. But despite what may be a block from being immersed in her story, they have actually had no problem associating with Virginia. And deeply so for some.
Virtual worlds have remarkably strong elements of emotion within them and for those with empathy they were able to truly be touched by her story. It is remarkable really and Virginia has asked me to thank everyone for being interested in her, and I think she is most excited about people hearing her piano compositions. There is a nice write up by Quan Lavender for Avenue magazine which you can read here if you like.. http://issuu.com/avenue/docs/avenue.july2012