Beneath the surface of Seelie’s stunning “Dead Tree Lake”


Dead Tree Lake by Tod Seelie
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240) | 24"x30" ($1200)


Sometimes in the throes of holiday season over-scheduling, we need something to give us pause, to make us slow down, step back, and find serenity in a little introspection. It helps if that force of calm also happens to look amazing in our art collection. That, dear readers, is double duty at its finest. Take today’s new release, a quietly provocative piece from LA-based photographer and OG 20x200 artist Tod Seelie. Rippling water reeling us into the misty horizon, balletic branches arrayed wabi-sabi style—Dead Tree Lake has the mysterious makings of a meditative visual moment. And this stunning photograph has a seriously interesting backstory to boot.

We can spot a Seelie photograph in a crowd. His images often have an appealing sort of strangeness, with a cinematic bent. A roaming, renegade ilk of photographer, Seelie is interested in the edges of things, in out-of-the-way places, people on the margins of society, life outside the lines, and liminal zones. He’s also no stranger to the attractive power of the slightly dystopian scene—much like the striking, somewhat alien landscape he captured in Dead Tree Lake.

Bare branches emerge implausibly from the undulating water, their scuffed, crooked silhouettes contrasting the glassy blue-green they stick out from. There’s a sense of pregnant silence, of something beneath the surface. Dead Tree Lake isn’t just an example of Seelie’s skill for bringing out the beauty in bizarreness and decay, it shows his knack for building latent tension, for emphasizing things beyond what the eye can see. That talent leads to totally transfixing photographs ...

Seelie shot Dead Tree Lake while exploring Nezahualcóyotl reservoir in Chiapas, Mexico. The dam that flooded the area submerged the Temple of Quechula, a 16th-century church believed to have been built by Dominican friars who came to convert the native Zoque people. The church was later abandoned, then engulfed by the reservoir, but over the years intermittent drought has caused it to emerge, ghost-like, from the water.

Though there’s no glimpse of the sacrosanct structure in Seelie’s Dead Tree Lake, there’s a suggestion of its presence—and of the weight of history. The trees imply an unseen underlying level as they stretch toward the sky like arms in praise. The overall effect is ethereal, eerie, and lightly upending. Like Seelie’s image-making, this site is special. Both are something you won’t see anywhere else.

With art for everyone,
Team 20x200

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