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Elena Lyakir

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Born 1975, Chernihiv, Ukraine
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY

Raised in communist Ukraine, Lyakir developed a passion for photography as a young child. Imagery of Soviet cinematography and historical family photographs inspired her to pick up a camera when she was only seven. In 1990 she immigrated to the U.S. with her family, seeking political asylum. In 1993 Lyakir came to New York City pursuing a career in the fashion industry. Fascinated and intrigued by ‘90s experimental art scene, Lyakir decided to study art history and took courses in photography, film, and Eastern philosophies, briefly attending the Museum School of Fine Arts. However, her experiences of discrimination and oppressive authority in communist Ukraine motivated her to continue education independently, through active research, mentor-ship, collaborations and experimentation in the dark room.

Lyakir’s photography is both internationally recognized and included in many private and corporate collections. Large-scale images from her “Aves” series decorate the walls of renowned chef Jean-George Vongerichten’s James Beard award winning Manhattan eatery, ABC Kitchen. She has won awards for her image titled Black Bird Fly and is actively involved with Berlin Collective artist collaborative. As an activist, Lyakir donates prints for many causes including the International Center of Photography auction, the Bailey House auction, First Bloom, Thorn Tree Project, The Snowflake Ball, and In-Sight Photography. In summer of 2014 her work will be included in I LOVE ART. Published in London, UK by Masters Of Today, the book will highlight 100 emerging contemporary artists.


Growing up in Soviet Ukraine I was forced to remain an outsider due to my mixed nationality. I frequently felt isolated, questioning my sense of belonging and identity. When my family fled to the U.S. I was fifteen – a vulnerable age between adolescence and adulthood. Upon arrival I found it difficult to integrate into the unfamiliar American culture, where I again felt utterly alienated. In the early months of navigating through this new world I experienced significant memory loss due to severe trauma of displacement. The echoes of my history continue to haunt me, as I remain stuck between two worlds, two cultures, two languages, always searching for a sense of belonging in my past and present reality.

In my work I seek to find representations for inner-directed investigations of memory, identity, lost time, displacement, and personal transformations. My images serve as an exposition of interior explorations, a need to find beauty and strength in the melancholy of longing. Thus, I am mostly interested in creating art that is intimate and viscerally connected to emotion. I attempt to bridge sentiment with imagery. Each photograph is a visually poetic metaphor for memory and complexities of human emotion – the real and the fictitious, the exposed and the hidden, the beautiful and the grotesque. Through the medium of photography I examine my desire to understand how ideas and memories are trapped inside photographs, representing reality in symbols.

Using elements of nature as my primary subject, I push the limits of the photographic medium to suggest charcoal drawings and painterly abstractions. Employing a combination of tilt-shift and toy lenses, digital processing formulas I invent, meticulous dodging and burning, I create images that appear to have depth, movement, and texture. Aesthetically I am inspired by forms and philosophies of minimalism and attempt to generate a visual experience that provides mental space for contemplation. While the natural depictions remain vivid, the images blur and fade along the edges, almost as if the centrifugal forces of my own displacement punctuate every interpretation of my surroundings. Born 1975,

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