While the artist lay dying, his son made a museum for his father’s work, as a way to stay sane.
Last year, Dutch illustrator Peter Vos was suffering the last stages of pancreatic cancer, and opted not to treat it. Considered one of the best contemporary draughtsmen in the Netherlands, Vos instead decided that he’d spend his final days home, with his wife and family. “[He] did not want to be treated,” his son Sander Vos explains to me, “and did not want any strangers around.” All he asked doctors for was medication to take against the pain.
And as death approached, the artist’s son did an extraordinary thing: He began to build a place that would live on after his father, made with particles of light. That is to say, Sander Vos logged into Second Life, and made a gallery of his father’s work in digital 3D. Because the son, as it happens, is an artist too: A filmmaker, in particular, editor of RU There, a feature film set in great part in SL. Which is partly why Sander (whose avatar is called RL Karkassus) could build in Second Life with such facility:
“I started building a 3D version of one of his drawings, ‘Villa Insight’ in Second Life, while he was ill, because building makes me calm in a way,” Sander tells me. “I had to think practical all the time, like: How on earth am I going to make this little ink bottle with prims? And I was busy with him at the same time, ‘cause it was all about him of course."
Sometime during that process, Peter Vos passed away, last November. And in between the burial and the mourning and all death’s necessities, RL Karkassus kept building:
“Just to stay sane,” as Sander put it to me. But doing so was actually part of Sander’s mourning process, spending so much time amid his father’s life work, realizing it in a new form.
He finished the villa based on his father’s drawing, then started building a reproduction of his father’s studio. “Then I thought of exhibiting his drawings there, in order to get a clear image of his work.” So the villa evolved into museum, a place that would show many of Peter Vos’ drawings, to people in Second Life who cared to see them. (Like the one above, and the one below.)
Creating the museum taught Sander Vos something new about his father: “As he is quite famous in the country I live in, I always took the quality of his work for granted,” he tells me. “But to make something interesting in Second Life, I had to imagine how foreign avatars, who had never seen any of his drawings, and had never seen or heard about him before, would react to his work.” Making the exhibition with that in mind, he saw his father’s work from fresh eyes. “I am now more in awe of his work after this project, than I ever was before.”
You can visit Sander Vos’ tribute to his father in Second Life: Click here for a direct SLurl teleport to the place. Many have, from around the world. And now that it’s there, Sander is searching for the rest of his fathers’ artistic legacy.
“[I]t is scattered all over Holland, and we have no idea how much he made exactly and where many of the originals are,” Sander explains. “This is a project I can spend the rest of my life with, and my children and childrens’ children too. There must be tens of thousands of drawings out there.”
Before his father died, Sander tried to explain what Second Life was, and the movies about it he was making. “He found it hard to understand. He was phobic of computers... and he was brilliant at creating the illusion of 3D in a 2D space, so I think it was too hard to understand how things work in a virtual 3D environment.” But in his final days, as Sander was building the Second Life villa, Peter Vos had a glimmer of the potential: “We discussed about that sometimes,” Sander tells me, “and I think that maybe he started to understand the possibilities of Second Life a little bit.
“Made me wonder what he would have created in-world if he would have put his mind to it. I think he would have blown all our minds.”
There is one thing Peter Vos definitely would have understood, and that is why Sander spent so much time creating, in his father’s final days:
“He himself drew a lot when his father was dying -- there are some of those drawings in the exhibition -- that was his way to stay sane at the time.”
All drawings and photos owned and courtesy Sander Vos and family.