Growing up in communist Ukraine, Lyakir developed a passion for photography as a young child. When she was seven, old family photographs and Russian cinematography inspired her to pick up a camera. In 1990 when she was 15, she immigrated to the U.S. with her family, seeking political asylum.
In 1993 Lyakir moved to New York City. She became quite fascinated by the NY art scene and took classes in art history, philosophy, photography and attended film school at Museum School of Fine Arts. While she enjoyed school in the U.S., her childhood experiences of discrimination and oppressive authority in communist Ukraine motivated her to continue education on her own, through research, mentorship, and experimentation in the dark room.
“The art world has a tendency toward academicism, which can often result in aridity and conventionality. I am more interested in seeing and creating art that is viscerally connected to emotion.”
In her artwork Lyakir attempts to bridge passion and sentiment with visual imagery. The images serve as kind of an exposition of personal history that combines her sense of poetic longing with the melancholy she felt growing up in the rich yet contradictory Eastern European culture – where she was forced to remain an outsider due to her mixed nationality. For Lyakir, each photograph is literally a page in a diary: metaphors for feelings, sensations, dreams and other complexities of the human condition. Her still images evoke how memory facilitates the creation of situations involving her viewers both emotionally and physically. While looking at one of Elena's photographs, viewers are confronted by the awareness of their own behaviors and states of being, in essence turning each photo into an opportunity for self-reflection.
Using elements of nature as her primary subject, Lyakir pushes the limits of the photographic medium to suggest the illusion of charcoal drawings and painterly abstractions. The images are usually devoid of human life often creating an illusion of a silent explosion of deciduous vegetation and birds. While the natural depictions remain brightly vivid, the images blur and fade along the edges, almost as if the centrifugal forces of Lyakir's own displacement punctuate every interpretation of her surroundings.
Lyakir's photography is internationally recognized and is included in many private collections. Her work is sold through Spring Gallery, Clic Gallery, and Ochre. Large-scale images from her “Aves” and “Poetry Of Nature” series' decorate the walls of renowned chef Jean-George Vongerichten's James Beard award winning Manhattan eatery, ABC Kitchen. Her generous donations include auctions for International Center of Photography, The Bailey House, First Bloom, Thorn Tree Project, The Snowflake Ball, and In-Sight.
Elena Lyakir lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.