At Home and In the Studio with Elena Lyakir and Eric Slayton

Elena Lyakir and Eric Slayton live and work in Greenpoint, which Lyakir describes as being “the perfect place…charming, raw and not yet gentrified.” A fine arts photographer, Lyakir’s latest show, “Punctuated History”. opens at the Highline Loft tonight, where it will be accompanied by the work of Slayton, an artist and industrial designer. Lyakir’s work manages to be grounded in a natural reality, while also embracing an ethereal quality that is reminiscent of a dreamy subconscious. It is well complemented by Slayton’s sculptures and furniture which employ industrial materials yet maintain an elegant simplicity. We spoke with Lyakir recently and visited their studio and the home they share together and in doing so got a glimpse of the lives behind the art.

What brought you both to Brooklyn, and north Brooklyn specifically? Tell me a little about your backgrounds.

I came to Brooklyn after living in Manhattan for almost 10 years. Greenpoint was the perfect place as it was charming, raw and not yet gentrified. It felt like you were a pioneer and there was a lot of freedom to exist and create and begin something new and exiting. Manhattan was becoming stale, constricting, difficult to be creative in. Also, Brooklyn is more friendly and human-scale. I am an immigrant from a small town in Ukraine and Brooklyn reminds me of home. I like the fusion of the urban industrial with a bit of nature, a feeling of neighborhood. I also like the cultural and historical education it has to offer.

Your respective work draws seems to draw so much inspiration from nature, is it difficult to find that kind of inspiration while living in such an urban and industrial landscape?

My inspiration mostly comes from personal experiences, internal interpretations, refractions, longing, searching and the emotions that follow. I merely use nature as a visual tool to describe those sensibilities. For me, it provides a universal language which communicates with everyone. Sometimes nature is merely a fabrication of the heart or mind.

What are some of the things that influence you right now in your work?

At the moment much of my inspiration comes from minimalism. I believe that cerebral and aesthetic minimalism is ideal for the gestations of imagination and inner vision. It was and is always present in my work but I am currently more interested in its philosophical value. Yet the thing that interests me most, always, is the realm of human emotion. I feel a need to translate emotions, even physical sensations, into a form of visual interpretation.

What are some of the benefits—or detriments—about being members of New York’s artistic community?

It is very inspiring to be around all the amazing talented, creative people with so many ways of expression. The only thing that I feels is a bit boring is the level of competition between young artists. I wish there was more sharing of ideas and less separateness, ego, and fear.

How is it raising a family in Brooklyn? Is it similar or different to how you grew up?

It is very different from how and where I grew up. That requires a long conversation. Yet Brooklyn is a good place for us. I cannot imagine living anywhere else in NYC as a family. It is a good fit. Not to say that there are no challenges. There are. But challenges are a vehicle for change.

What are some of the most exciting things going on for you right now in your work?

For me, personal everyday life is what brings excitement into my creative life. I get inspiration from exploration (mentally and physically) and living intentionally and fearlessly. I am bringing this quality into my work more and more. Especially the fearlessness. I am testing new ideas, new territory. I am playing with installation, video, collaborations, working with my hands… That is very exiting.

Elena Lyakir
Punctuated History
June 6 — June 30, 2013

The Highline Loft
Naftali Building
508 W 26 St, 5 Floor, NY

Opening reception: Thursday, June 6, 6pm-9pm

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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