Artist Interview: Jack Whitsitt

I first “met” Jack Whitsitt on the website when I flamed him for his comment on living in Washington, D.C., and how the cold, suited culture of DC had negatively affected his art. This post, one of Jack’s first on the website, questioned the “Babbitry of the DC superculture” and it’s impact on local artists. Commenting on an older post that likens DC to a soul-crushing culturally homegenous environment that ultimately breeds a thriving counter-culture, Jack admitted that a lot of what he was doing then with his art was a direct reaction to how he had his time and the environment to which he was exposed. “Or is this just something that passes you by? Or it’s a misperception of the area?”

Through, I began to understand a little more about Jack Whitsitt and his art. Through the artdc dinners and then the FLUX show in January, I had a chance to hang out with Jack and get to know him more. Turns out, he’s a freak for the Cure, can speak Finnish, and is a reformed hacker. Jack’s an interesting cat with an even more interesting history.Â

Recently, Jack created an avatar in Second Life and developed an idea for a virtual art gallery. What the hell is Second Life? It’s not a game, per se, but it’s not tangible, either, although there’s real money being exchanged and fake land being sold. Apparently, it’s an online world where geeks can build the life they always wished they had. No, no, I can’t write that. Second Life is an online world with a lot of casinos and porn shops for internet geeks who can’t get any in real lifeDammit, can’t write that, either.Â

Well, it’s obvious that in order to write about Second Life and this gallery that Jack built, I’ll need to spend some time there, myself. This should be interesting…

So, I took the metro out to a Starbucks in Cleveland Park in NW DC to meet up with Jack and see what all this fuss was about. By this time, I’d seen a news article on SL and how virtual land was being gobbled up at a premium, not unlike a 2×2 square foot area of grass might be sold in Loudoun County for McMansion construction. It was a nice Saturday in March, about 70 degrees outside, so why not spend a few hours inside a Starbucks playing a video game?

It was crowded for Starbucks, considering that it was after noon and nice outside. Jack was back in a corner playing his video game. I mean, building his gallery. I grabbed a latte and a chair, and got ready for the freak fest.

Jack showed me around Second Life, starting with a birds-eye-view of the SL World and zooming into his gallery, a modern design with glass floors and walls. The gallery is situated next to the ocean, with waves visible beneath the ground floor, which is also glass. The waves sound like real waves, crashing against the shore as if it were really the ocean. The seagulls were a nice touch, as well, providing a more realistic feel to the experience.

Some of the artwork was already up by then. The interesting thing about the SL gallery, and how it becomes more of an experience than simply going to a gallery’s website or viewing artwork online, is that in SL, it can be viewed from different angles. You can also discuss the work with others who are right there with you. And, they are, in a sense, right there with you.   In real life, gallery space is at a premium and difficult for many artists to obtain. The SL gallery provides an opportunity to have artwork available in a central location that anyone throughout the world may experience.Â

By this time, I was getting impatient for the porn and casinos I’ve heard so much about. They were located in the ghetto neighborhood of SL, no less. Abandoned buildings, graffiti, bums, and even burning trashcans all added to the experience. Then, there were the billboards. We didn’t stay long there in the ghetto. I think Jack was concerned about pickpocketing.Â

March 16th was the show opening. While Jack was physically at the Warehouse, and provided live streaming, I was at home in Centreville due to snow. But, I was able to visit with Jack and hear all of the noises from the bar, as if I was right there doing tequila shots like my avatar in SL. More on that later.

The most difficult part of the SL experience was choosing the name for my avatar. There is a list of last names from which to choose; the first name is up to you. I scrolled through the list of last names until something caught my eye. Maertens. How about Doc Maertens? Taken. Dr Maertens? Also taken. Doktorr Maertens? Available. Eexccelent.

Once I finally figured out how to move around and walk in my one-piece leotard, ala Wilma Deering, I teleported to the Sintixerr Gallery to check out the opening. I could see others already there; Arty4Ever was the only one I recognized, aside form Morning Dagger, i.e., Jack. They were out on the dance floor getting their freak on. There was even a bartender taking drink orders (free tequila…too bad it’s not Real Life).Â

I stuck around in SL for about 45 minutes, just watching what others around me were doing. I was a little out of my element, in that I didn’t participate in any of the chatting that was going on around me. So, after a little while, I logged off.

It’s taken me several weeks to put this interview together; I am a slow writer. I tend to spend a little while putting things together in my head and then when the urge hits, I sit down and just start writing. Last night, I went back to SL to check out the scene on a normal night without a gallery opening. Doktorr Maerten logged back in and visited the Sintixerr Gallery. There were actually “people” there looking at art. Strange experience, but it helped to reinforce the perspective that the SL gallery was functionally different than a website. I watched one particular avatar for over five minutes; he walked from artwork to artwork, stopping at each one for a moment to take it all in. I just stood there and watched. It was very surreal, realizing that this was someone in a different city somewhere else in the world, stopping by this galler to check out art. At this point, I actually understood what Jack had said about the perspective of viewing art in real life mirrored in Second Life.Â

 While I don’t know that I’ll ever become a regular member of SL, I do have a better appreciation of the overall gallery concept. In fact, Jack has been approached by several brick and mortar galleries interested in teaming up with the SL gallery for a “real life” show. We’ll see how things pan out.

I’m still a little more fascinated by the geek porn….

3 Responses to “Artist Interview: Jack Whitsitt”

  1. Jack Says:

    Well, maybe in the next article, you can write about the geek pr0n. In the mean time, nothing but (except for maybe ascii drawings) beats for geek sex 😉

  2. Artomatic, Second Life, Splattered Paint, Oh My « Jack Whitsitt : Portraits and other Artworks Says:

    […] Â Angela also interviewed me a few weeks back about my Second Life work and you can find the link HERE. […]

  3. » Artomatic, Second Life, Splattered Paint, Oh My « Jack Whitsitt : Portraits and other Artworks-My 1983 Says:

    […] ?Angela also interviewed me a few weeks back about my Second Life work and you can find the link HERE. […]

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