Friday, December 9, 2022

Interview With Talia Sunsong

By Bixyl Shuftan
Recently the Newser wrote about an art exhibit by Talia Sunsong. Not long after, I had a chance to interview her.

Dropping by, I noted the gallery, and Talia smiled, "Netty (Netera Landar) did a great job creating this gallery. We had a grand opening with Helena singing live. Sandy made a stage out of one of my paintings. Sandy liked the colorful stream painting and picked that for the stage. I titled the exhibit "Fire and Water" because it's about that sea of brilliant color at sunset or sunrise, or the flash of lightning in the sky. I wanted to make paintings that you can almost hear the sizzle as the sun descends into the water." I asked if sunrises and sunsets are a frequent theme with her, and she told me, "Yes,  I love to play with color. Color is like a vitamin. It gives you a burst of energy."

She went on, "Years ago, I lost everything in a firestorm, including a hundred of my paintings. I didn't paint for years after that.  Then I decided to paint at least one painting a day. I did that for over a year. I take photographs to help me with my painting, and I keep hundreds of ideas on a spreadsheet." I asked how long she had been painting and taking photographs. Talia answered, "I won a drawing contest as a teenager, and tried my hand at painting then. I could control drawing more easily than painting, and it was years later before I felt more satisfied with my painting, enough to show to the public.  I did photography later on, and did some serious reporter photography, including ending up in court testifying in a police brutality case." Asking what happened there, she answered, "The man who was injured did not win in court."

I asked Talia what where her favorite subjects to draw and paint. She told me, "I like to paint nature, including animals, like birds, whales and dolphins. I also like to do landscapes and seascapes. Sometimes I play around with painting mermaids. I am passionate about creating a mood or telling a story in my creations, including painting, drawing, writing, 3D computer models or immersive virtual worlds. I have also worked in filmmaking and was a crew member for two Sundance Film Festival picks. I hope my artwork uplifts and brings smiles to people's faces."

I noted she had created her account in 2011 and asked Talia how she found out about Second Life. She answered, "I had heard on and off about Second Life on the web for about 2 years. I wanted to visit. When I came, I found out about all the classes offered. I loved taking classes in Second life. I also was welcomed into a fun roleplaying group, when I played an Elf that could shapeshift into a dragon. In those classes I learned about free resources, like GiMP (2D graphics program) and Blender (3D graphics program). I still use those programs today. I'm also learning about creating vector art in Inkscape, which is good for digital art. I have looked into some AI (Artificial intelligence) art programs.

"These paintings here in the exhibit are hand-painted in real life. I put my artwork onto RedBubble, a print on demand site for physical, real life paintings, t-shirts, mugs, bags, stickers, cell phone covers, and more. I named my store Aryxaba: ." I asked where the name came from. Talia answered, " I wanted a name that no one else had, so I made the name "Aryxaba" up, starting with the word "Oryx" which is a big antelope.

"I have a mug from my RedBubble store with the 'Ship in a Storm' painting. That is probably my most popular painting." She walked over to one, "This one." I asked what inspired that particular painting. Talia answered, "There's something about the energy, the lightning, the wind in the sails, the choppy water, yet I know that ship will safely weather the storm. I like energy, a mood, or a story in a painting. Each thing is almost a character in itself, the lightning is a character, the ship is a character, even the water is a character. They interact to create a plot." 

I asked Talia about her more memorable exhibits in the past. She told me, "Myself, along with others, did a 3D exhibit for the University of Australia. It was picked to be photographed and put into a real life book. The exhibit was of a woman with wings, escaping a confining home, by going into virtual worlds like Second Life. I think people really understand that feeling, after the quarantines." I asked if she meant about virtual worlds being a way to figuratively get out of the house during those time. "Yes, exactly," she answered, "Free to fly around in virtual space, meet friends, dance, take a class, explore, play golf and more."

I noted the location of the exhibit, next to Netera's Coffee Lounge, and asked how this came about.  Talia answered, "Netera and I both work with a live singer, Austin Moores for about 5 years now. We go onstage with him during his shows. It's a lot of fun and I really enjoy hearing him sing. Netera and I like to write also. She set up the coffeehouse for a peaceful place to write and to exhibit art."

I asked Talia what stories she wrote about. She answered, "I wrote a time travel fantasy novel, about ancient Egypt and Crete called 'The Missing Princes of Egypt.'  I also wrote a comedic fantasy novel of magic gone wrong, 'Risky Magic.' ... Writing humor does lighten my day. Sometimes if I'm tired, I write humor. It makes me smile. I've been writing humorous slogans for t-shirts that I will eventually put into my RedBubble store." I asked for an example, and she told me, "I made up one yesterday for the holidays 'On the Naughty List, And Had Fun Doing It.'"

I asked about the exhibit opening's singer. Talia answered, "We had this wonderful live singer, Helena Navarita. Austin Moores had to cancel at the last moment and Helena stepped in to sing. I was so lucky that Netera could get her at short notice." I pointed out to Talia that with her on stage, some might have have mistaken her for the singer. She laughed, "I would not be able to sing as well as Helena."

So what does Talia have planned for her next exhibition? Her answer was, "Good question, I might go with an animal theme, either birds, or sea creatures, perhaps swimming in beautiful blue waters. Maybe a mermaid will join them." Pointing out the shoulder pet dragon on her shoulder, I asked if any pictures to be done soon will include dragons. She told me, "I want to refine my dragon drawings more before going public with them. I took a short class with a woman who was known for her dragon illustrations at Renaissance Fair. I liked the fluidity of her dragons, and have experimented with that in my work.

The artist's last words in the interview were, "I wanted to thank the people that helped me on my way in this art exhibit, Netera Landar for the exhibit space, Helena Navarita for the singing at the opening, Sandy Hauster for the stage, all the people that come to see the exhibit and you Bixyl for this interview."

Talia's "Fire and Water" exhibit is at Snug Harbor (115/94/25) and will run until December 23.
Bixyl Shuftan

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