The woman-tree with a dog

by DRM

Alenka Sottler 3 2 900


An image was stuck in my head. I saw a single tree in the distance. A dog stood beneath it. The vista was all greys and whites and blacks. The dog and the tree were solitary but separate. The image evoked something necessary and almost forgotten.

I went to Flickr and typed in the phrase “faraway tree with dog next to it.” I did the same search on Google.

Hundreds of thousands of images populated the tiny mosaic of my screen. I skimmed them.

I look for an image that externalizes the sensations I feel when I first recognize my mental image.  When I find it, I write.

Sometimes, to my dismay, there is no image lodged in the mammoth indexes of Google or Flickr that aligns with the shadows in my imagination.  Sometimes I find an image that leads me to another facet of feeling that I am led to explore.

And there are the magical times when I see an image that is so distinct, fresh and strong that it takes me hostage.

That happened to me recently when Alenka Sotter’s lyric vision of a woman-tree and a dog was served up in my search.

This illustration is nothing like the internal archetype I was exploring. My vision was still and remote. The imagination-dog sits on its haunches looking directly at us. The tree was bare of leaves. It feels like winter. The trunk and branches are ink black and stained with hoar frost. The terrain is endless.

Sotter’s woman is a tree, but not quite a tree, in a world filled with waves that are not quite waves.  A small dog looks out at us from the base of the slender woman-tree.  The light gathers in the center of the image-space with contradictory energy that could be interpreted as a light moment in the midst of a storm or as the clearing that emerges from a dusty dawn.

As I browsed the other images on Sotter’s web site, I learned she is Slovenian and has illustrated more than 40 books for children and adults.  Her vision is simple and gentle, but never shirks the murky mysteries of the soul.  We are immersed in the fantastical, the normal juxtaposed with the unknown, guided confidently by a woman who has her eye glued to the world and who is capturing moments that might easily flicker past.

I’m realizing more and more that when you encounter an artist with a distinct and personal vision on the web, the experience is intense and transforming.  The community I share on the web through Facebook, Twitter, Google and myriad RSS feeds provides a constant stream of images.  When one point of view stands out, the stream freezes and everything that I have seen, that I’m filtering, that I understand, that I’m sorting out, that I’ve wondered about, that I want to try to do is, brought into focus and re-calibrated.

I look.  I appreciate.  I remark to myself.  Then I move back into the stream and watch for the next elegant surprise.

You can share the particular pleasure that comes with discovering Sotter’s work at her web site here.