Sunday, November 30, 2008

We, the people

portrait of gwendolyn

james schwarz (ftr that's a kazoo in his mouth)

James Schwarz is an artist who captures and illuminates the paradox of the avatar through his Headshot Series. I first learned of his work through intrepid profile stalking. I noticed that profile pictures taken by Schwarz had more depth than any I had seen before. The faces materialize from twilit dusk and the eyes make direct contact with the viewer. His subjects gaze confidently, coolly, sassily – they’re a bit intimidating. One of his sitters admitted being a bit shy about approaching Schwarz for an appointment (I felt the same way) so it was refreshing to read his follow up comment that he too, may feel a bit of the same when meeting people for a photo shoot. The nervousness comes from mutual admiration. We respect his work, and he respects us for timidly offering ourselves up as subject. He cares for his subjects, smoothing and softening their angles. The portraits are the same in size and presentation, but include personal accoutrements - a ciggy here, a headband there. Some avatars are plain, some are elaborate, each one unique. Take a few moments to view his flickr stream showing the series. It offers a rare opportunity to contemplate and know these personalities who are typically roaming, dancing, shagging, building, or otherwise on the move. I had a moment to catch up with Schwarz and asked him about the Headshot Series. He made an interesting point:

James Schwarz: "SL is pretty much a whole different dimension. The diversity of people…it's like the way each avatar is represented it's not just the work of one person, the owner, but a work of several others. If you think about it, the way you look right now is the hours and dedication put into by the creators of your skin, clothes, hair etc."

I’d never thought about that aspect of an avatar; that each individual represents a communal effort. But this idea is essentially the essence of SL, working collaboratively to achieve your individual vision, which made me think of Thich Nhat Hanh:

“You are me, and I am you. Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?”

See Schwarz’s first project – 100 Avatars – a community profile of the metaverse. Schwarz may have expressed being shy, but his artwork is not - it reaches out to each of us with a welcoming embrace. Rad.