What do you understand as "nature"? Is it the birth of new life? Animals, plants, and minerals? All that is not touched by technology or civilization?
Maybe nature can't be controlled by humanity, because it is a power beyond ourselves. Who can grasp with their hands the lightning that strikes from the sky, drink away the waters from a storm, tame with just a whisper the hunger of vultures, stop the seed from sprouting in fertile soil? All those forces are close to us, and yet, we keep separating it from ourselves, maybe out of awe, of misunderstanding, or even of fear. But what happens when you blend our humanity with both the power and softness of nature?
Panamanian illustrator Andi Soto explores in her work the power behind this ancient connection between nature and humanity, specially focused on women. By combining the human body and natural elements, like flowers, animal bones, or trees, she gives shape to the unspoken feelings of the spirit, more specifically nostalgia. However, women and female figures are dominant in her work because through them she can express both the strength and gentleness that lies within each flower, tree, and living creature of this planet.
Each piece is born from an organic process: as the artist draws, the figures come to life, breathe in ink and exhale new colors and fantastic shapes. Her characters possess the delicate yet dark countenance of ancient earth deities; they don’t reject their hybrid nature, but rather embrace it and the power that comes with it. Through these fantastic characters, we can connect with times long gone, find a reflection of that hidden part of ourselves, rescue it, and shed light on the concealed power that comes from our connection with nature.
Through the incorporation of animal anatomy, these characters also convey the processes that each of us go through in life. Maybe we feel that we’ve hit rock bottom, and we're unable to move, as if we were birds with broken wings or with no feathers at all. But after this paralysis comes a rebirth. Before gaining its new colorful wings, a butterfly must remain in a quiet slumber, almost similar to death.
As a master weaver, Andi Soto gives her illustrations one final touch: the long, wavy hair of her characters. It’s not just an element to catch her audience’s attention, but also a way to convey the untamed spirit of her goddesses, turning them into living art pieces. Flowers, branches, and bones are braided in their long hair, creating a flowing and elegant connection between the body and these organic elements that enhance the mythic aura of these women.
Andi Soto is currently working on a comic and two solo shows in Panama and New York. Soon, she will release her first book of illustrations, in which she will gather some of her most iconic and representative illustrations. If you want to see more of her astonishing works, you can visit her Instagram page or her website.
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