Talking with: Bryn Oh

“I am a professional oil painter who has come into second life to create new media art ideas that don’t work as well in the oil painting medium.”

This presents herself Bryn Oh in her blog. In SL she is one of the most prolific and renowned artists, not only for her mounts and sculptures, but also as a machinima creator. It would be very difficult for me to define and label her art, all that really matters is that his works are stories full of feeling for themselves, and they have the power to transmit to those who observe them. Bryn Oh’s magic is to give life to characters and improbable stories and give us the option to make them part of us, she opens wide the entrance to a world of fantasy and feeling. She is known as The steam princess.


Jeanette Reinoir: Hi Bryn, is a pleasure to have you in our magazine and to introduce yourself to our readers.

As you tell me in the information that you sent to me previously, you started studying psychology, then art and design in Toronto and Florence, later you made a degree in Softimage computer animation and Zbrush, and then you are a painter in oils in your first life. The birth of Bryn Oh in Second Life went from the idea to see if a virtual artist could become successful in the first life. Following your career in SL and RL we can see that this all has been, what can you tell us about this experience?, what meaning has it for you and what changes it has made or how it has affected (enriched) to your life?.

Bryn Oh: The creation of Bryn Oh has been a wonderful experience for me.  Through her I have been able to work with companies such as IBM, directors such as Peter Greenaway and been in events such as the World Expo in Shanghai, Universities and Galleries.  As an oil painter I often spend long periods of time alone in my studio painting.  You rely on your gallery to find opportunities for you, but generally they are fairly local, either within your city, country or neighbouring country.  As Bryn Oh I deal directly with people from around the world on a daily basis.  For example, the World Expo exhibited movies that I created in Second Life, and they were shown in the Spanish Pavilion.  The person who made this possible is named Cristina García-Lasuén or Aino Baar.  Cristina is a Spanish curator whom I would never have met had it not been for Second Life.  Second Life seemed to bring me into contact with more people from around the world with similar interests than I was able to do as a RL painter.

J.R.: You are a very versatile artist, could you explain a bit about the different facets of your art?. Do you have preference for any of them? Why is this special to you?.

B.O.: There are quite a few stages to the artworks I create in Second Life.  It begins in RL where I often will write out poems and sketch ideas for a narrative.  I will look within myself for something I need to say.  Something personal.  I will then take that idea and plan out ways to portray it.  Then I will come to second life and begin to build it.  Beyond building it also involves creating textures, ambient sound placement, scripting and so on.  From here I will often create a machinima or movie to tell the story in another format.  Depending on the artwork this will take months.  If I had to pick a preference it would be the actual 3D build within Second Life.  What makes this part special to me is that it represents what is unique about Second Life as an art medium.  As a viewer you enter my creation and explore it however you wish to.  You can look under a bed or wander off into a forest.  The freedom of this stage is what I enjoy most.  It is what defines this medium.

J.R.: Aside from your sim Immersiva, which is your permanent work in SL, what other works could we see right now?.

B.O.: Most of my works that are available to see I keep in my profile picks.  Currently IBM is showing the third and final part to my Rabbicorn story which is called Standby.  It is 14 960  prims and likely will only be shown for another month.

J.R.: Are you currently working on any new projects?.

B.O.: Yes I was recently given a new sim by a patron and on it I am creating a new story called Annas many murders.  Standby was a very heavy build for me.  Very emotional.  So Annas many murders is a way for me to just have some fun.  It’s light hearted dark humour.

J.R.: The first time I heard of you, your work and I met you, it was through a mutual friend, AuraKyo, another great artist. She took me to the opening of “The Gashlycrumb Tinies Edward Gorey, A recreation at arcspace. It was in 2008, but I still remember how it touched me. At that time there was a large group of artists and a variety of exhibitions and arts and cultural events in SL. Do you think that the world of art in SL changed  since then?. If so, how has it changed for you?.

B.O.: I have been in Second Life for four years now and over that time I have noticed things to go in cycles.  There are periods where many great artists are constantly having shows and creating fantastic new ideas, then it will taper off where some of those same artists become burned out and new artists replace them.  During the periods of high activity there are many blogs and websites promoting the events.  People get excited and the community thrives.  Currently we have lost some great blogs that promoted the arts, such as NPIRL, as well as the promoters who worked tirelessly to set up events.  It also seems to me that there are less of the top end artists than there have been in the past.  It is hard to explain, but it feels to me as though some of the big name artists showing now are not of the same caliber to those in the recent past.  I think we are at the low end of a cycle and shortly we will see some new fresh artists emerge who have been influenced by some who have left.  When someone enters SL and becomes inspired by the work of an artist they often then need to spend 8 months to a year perfecting the skills needed to stand out on their own.  So when we see new artists emerging they likely will not be new to SL but rather people who have studied this medium and practiced for a year and have now made a breakthrough.

J.R.: One of the things I remember from that first of yours exhibitions that I visited was when you told me to look inside one of the sculptures to find its secret hidden, and there was a picture. I was so impressed that since I always spend a little extra time looking at all the details and looking for things hidden in your creations. Is it something usual?. Would you recommend to anyone visiting your works, that does not conform to what meets the eye?. What can they find?.

B.O.: Almost all of my work contains hidden elements to find.  Some are quite difficult to discover while others less so.  Vessels Dream for example

Was made up of a few rooms the guest could enter, but at a certain point they had to continue by using their camera and going through a tiny hole that their avatars body would not fit into.  If they did not use their camera to move further into the build they would only see about 10% of the story.  For me I love to turn over a rock and find something exciting under it or to dig up an old key in the garden.  The excitement of finding things is what I love.  I make builds for people who also enjoy discovery.  People need to do work to see my art.

J.R.: What is your inspiration when you get to create? .

B.O.: My inspiration comes from a variety of things.  It can be anything from a plastic bag caught in a tree to books by Philip Dick or Margaret Atwood.  Painters ranging from Georges de La Tour to de Chirico.  Illustrators such as John Tenniel and George Cruikshank and so on.  Music to a fly preening on the lip of a glass.  Everything.

J.R.: For many people, SL is little more than a game and that is for them an excuse for anything goes no matter that behind every avatar is a real person with feelings; for others, is an extension of their lives, a way of enriching their life experiences, what group you include?. Why?.

B.O.: That is a tough question for me.  Bryn Oh was created to be anonymous.  The idea is that I don’t want my RL to affect or replace Bryn Oh.  I describe it this way.  If you go to a marionette show they will dim the lights and those controlling the marionette will be dressed in black so you don’t see them.  Over a short time that marionette will become like a living person, you will forget she is made up of wood and string.  If someone were to suddenly turn on the lights during the show you would see the puppet being controlled and the magic would disappear.  The marionette would become wood and glue again.  I don’t want this to happen to Bryn.  SL enriches my life and is an extension, but an extension only as far as being anonymous can be.  I sometimes regret choosing to be anonymous because it becomes a barrier.  But yes Bryn is me and I am Bryn.

J.R.: Can you tell a story or experience in SL that was specialy touching or surprising to you?

B.O.: There are many, but one I like particularly was when I met the singer ColeMarie Soleil of the band Soleil.  I had made a build called Condos in Heaven which was about what might happen if Heaven were a physical place and the human race found it.  In my story we made war on Heaven, built condos in her clouds and harvested her for resources.  We captured angels and sold them as pets or cut off their wings.  The wings were sold in stores to wealthy people who would then wear them like an accessory.  ColeMarie saw this build and really didn’t like it.  To cut off angel wings was a horrible idea and I must be a monster.  On my sim Immersiva I began to see her hanging around watching me.  She would sit off somewhere and just watch me build things.  This went on for a month until one day she came and spoke to me.  Over time we became very good friends but the way we met was almost like a storybook.  Then my peaceful life was shattered as Cole is a fiery person who talks very quickly.  I will be quietly building and she will arrive like an army of braying donkeys with machine guns.  She will tell me a million things at once and then suddenly go and it will be quiet again J

J.R.: If some of our readers were thinking of using Second Life as a way to develop their artistic creativity, what advice or recommendations you could give?.

B.O.: I would suggest going to a sandbox like IBM or the new LEA one which will open soon and just meet with builders.  Ask advice and just make connections.  Practice building every day for months.  When you can create whatever you can think of, then it’s time to create art.  Think of something that is part of your soul, something you wish to say.  Something you really care about.  Find a way to say it in prims.

J.R.: Thank you for your time, Bryn.



– The images used in this post are made by Bryn Oh who sent them to use. I’d only cut to show scenes here. I want say ty very much, Bryn, for being so kind, and make this magic <3


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