Monday, November 2, 2015

Nicole Akstein

Nicole Akstein was born and raised in Atlanta, GA in 1985 to Brazilian parents. She received her BFA in Photography in 2007 from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has freelanced for publications such as The Village Voice, Atlanta Magazine and Blender Magazine. Akstein's work has been exhibited in Georgia and New York. Her work explores ideas surrounding identity, gender, culture, and societal and social structures. Most images are shot with traditional black & white or color film, in 35mm and 120mm formats. In addition to photography, she has integrated video, light projection and mixed media installations into her work.

Akstein is currently based in Athens, GA, where she received her Masters of Art Education and Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Georgia in 2014. She has taught art to students in pre-K through high school at various schools & community centers in Georgia, Brazil and India. She is the Arts Outreach Coordinator at the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art and art instructor at the Lyndon House Arts Center, while also working on projects and freelance opportunities.

Artist Statement: Mother, Mãe

Mother, Mãe, in its title alone, exposes its subject matter -- my mother. Our deep-seeded Brazilian roots pair the English term with the Portuguese translation, respectively. The work bears the weight of the overwhelming list of roles that women willingly and, often inadvertently, inhabit. The first role in which I abruptly came to know her, was none other than "mother," the center of my universe. As my link to the world, it is no surprise that I have been photographing her since I first picked up a camera. She is my most natural point of origin, stemming from the visceral. However, the works represent a woman, a state of mind, a spirit, and the passing of time. They are less biographical and more indicative towards notions of age, beauty, relationships, and the human condition.

Initially driven to convey the ambiguous nature of such roles, I became intrigued by the cultural forces that influence and shape the complex relationship women have with their mothers. In my experience, facing one's mother can be like facing a mirror, and these images can also be interpreted as self-portraits. I am confronting my beliefs, strength and femininity with hers. I am measuring these attributes to a lineage of women before and after her as well. I portray a woman who is trying to accept the body she inherited; one she passed on to me along with her image of herself. 

As our relationship evolved, the focus shifted towards exploring the relationship women have with themselves. Photographing her is an attempt to inhabit memories and re-create experiences, to transform them in order to somehow better understand their importance. The outcome consists of improvised, yet highly staged images, eluding any suggestion of a true reality and deliberately objectifying my mother. Images depicting the familiar landscape of a lake, swimming pool or bathtub are juxtaposed with scenes alluding to the bewilderment of death and rebirth.

The images weave a nonlinear narrative that invites and questions her reality. Among the dynamics taking place, beauty and fantasy are often undercut by loneliness, aging, and dissatisfaction. As an observer, I interpret her experiences in order to somehow justify my own. My mother wasn't always willing to play the role of a collaborative agent, and I don't blame her. The camera was an unwanted presence not only exposing herself to me, but exposing her to herself. The viewer is introduced to a woman through the eyes of her daughter, prompting one's own self-reflection.

Mother, Mãe is the result of a culmination of experiences, collaboration, conversations, arguments, and admiration for someone who informed my understanding of the world through her own. After years of sustained projections of her hopes and dreams placed upon me, one might infer that this body of work represents my response to living under a mother's thumb. However, it is my intention that this work empathize with her as a woman embracing her many roles, while confronting the notion that all may not be resolved in the end.

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