GBTH Magazine #17 - Grant Valeska
May. 2023

Interview by Difficult Conundrum
Screenshot by Marina Münter

For the first time at the GBTH is Grant Valeska - a man who probably needs no introduction. In his 13 years on the platform, he has become one of Second Life's most well-known stylists and photographers, never ceasing to evolve and transform his practice. In the interview below, we discuss his upcoming exhibition, his creative process, and what continues to drive him forward.

Difficult Conundrum: Congratulations on your upcoming exhibition! Before we delve into the details of PRIMITIVE, could you tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in fashion photography in Second Life?

Grant Valeska: Well, for starters, thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be a part  of GBTH in any way possible. It’s not my first time and hopefully not the last! To answer your question, I’d say my love of fashion started at a young age. Coming from a small town I didn’t have many outlets to express my love of fashion in real life so my gateway drug was The Sims. From there I discovered Second Life and was instantly hooked! Playing simulators is exciting but I’m a social person and like to connect with people. Second Life became the perfect outlet to find like minded people with similar artistic passions as myself where I could be anything and anyone I wanted to be.

DC: Second Life users have a unique way of viewing creators and fashion bloggers on the platform. Neither group is recognised as 3D artists unless they explicitly label themselves as such. What is your opinion of this, and where do you place yourself in this discussion?

GV: I consider myself a photographer and a stylist above anything else. If I had access to fashion archives and studio equipment outside of the metaverse, I would be doing the exact same thing I do here. In Second Life I’m using 3D creations to create the images and style the looks I present but often I have little to do with the creation of the items, with the exception of this exhibit where the primary focus of my work revolves around some prims I rezzed. In that case, maybe I am a novice 3D artist! Let me add that to my resume now.

DC: PRIMITIVE is described as a celebration of fashion photography as an art form. Can you share your creative process for this exhibition, and what were your main goals in terms of aesthetics and composition?

GV: Not to promote drug use, though I hardly consider weed a drug any longer, but I digress. Like most of my conceptual ideas they start with some weed and playlist to get high to. Which, shameless plug, if you check out my accompanying Spotify playlist for this exhibit you will find many tracks from said playlist. I was lying in bed with my eyes closed and airpods in both ears, knowing my deadline for this exhibit was drawing near, when ‘Kiss It Better’ by Rihanna started playing. The stuttering snare, which begins a few seconds into the track, has always reminded me of the default Second Life sound you hear when creating a new prim. Beyond my correlation to that sound, ‘Kiss It Better’ has always felt nostalgic in sound but new at its core. It’s primitive. There it was, my exhibit concept. I’ll use prims in their newest, most simple form as the centrepiece for the exhibit - only manipulating them in size with added material detail. One of my biggest fashion influences, former Creative Director-at-Large of Vogue - Grace Coddington, once said she aspires to make ugly things beautiful. The prim, as we know it, is a new beginning but it also represents the past. The background of these images are plain, the faces are blank, and the prims have a new life as heightened sculptural pieces representing rebirth through nostalgia.

DC: Selecting the prim as the focal point of this series was such an unexpected move! I'm curious about your approach to reinvention and embracing new beginnings in your artistic practice. Are there any specific methods or techniques you employ to ensure your work remains fresh and innovative?

GV: If you ask anyone who knows me well, I don’t like to repeat things, and if I do it’s going to have a twist or some sort of new element unlike the original. I’m constantly trying to pull myself outside of my comfort zone creatively. Even if it’s an idea I used three or four years ago, I know it has been done so it feels like I’m cheating myself of new content. I love discovering new photographers, stylists, and artists - often to the point of obsession. Since 2007 I’ve been collecting fashion magazines and books, now amassing a collection of over a thousand fashion magazines and almost a hundred photography, fashion, and art books from all different decades. When I’m feeling uninspired I often turn to my archives or retreat to my tumblr feed to draw inspiration, other times inspiration can strike from a vision I have hearing a song. I have synesthesia, meaning I see colors while listening to music. My phone is riddled with notes about the visions and colors I see, screenshots of what I’m listening to with colors scribbled across it, and photos of things I see in everyday life that bring me inspiration.

DC: Finally, could you tell us about any projects you are currently working on and what we can expect to see from you in the future?

GV: Projects should be my middle name, truly. I just had an editorial published for SPARK Magazine’s debut issue which featured the classic, now vintage, Second Life designer ‘Paper Couture’. They were my first fashion love in the metaverse and I wanted to pay homage to them as I return to doing print work. Beyond my editorial work and weekly blogging via Flickr, I have some live stage shows coming up for Pride season and a special one night only show that will be featured at Smokefest in the fall. If you haven’t seen one of my live shows, it’s not something you’ll want to miss. I don’t want to “toot my own horn” but they are unlike anything you have ever and will ever see on the grid. There are other things in the works that I can’t mention quite yet, but follow me on social media (@grantvaleska on all major platforms) and you’ll be the first to see any announcements regarding new projects. Thanks to GBTH for giving me the opportunity to bring this exhibit to life and for making this process as smooth as possible! Thank you to you for coming to my exhibit and I hope each of you leave inspired to create, one PRIMITIVE at a time.

PRIMITIVE opens on May 27th, 2pm SLT @GBTH