Varvara Mikushkina’s “Lux and Lumen”
Varvara Mikushkina conceptualized “Lux and Lumen” out of necessity. She was trying to make sense of an overabundance of images she had shot while studying for her MFA at Parsons School of Design, and saw that they all fit under one umbrella as studies of light. They also embodied elements of her heritage. Born in Russia in 1989, Mikushkina moved to Queens, New York, with her family as a young child, and settled in Syracuse in 2003.
“I created this framework for myself—I would photograph things that were shiny and reflective in sunlight,” she says. “I was interested in this idea of a clichéd version of nostalgia.” Lux and lumen, both measurements of light, became the organizing principle for the body of work.
In “Lux and Lumen,” Mikushkina juxtaposes reflective objects such as sheets of tinfoil, mirrors and crystal beads with soft, flat surfaces to create images that exude a baroque fullness. Flush with robust blues, golds, greens and reds, the images look somehow “rich” even though they depict common, everyday objects, shot in her apartment in New York City, and her parents’ home in Syracuse. “I like the falseness of images, how things are not what they seem,” Mikushkina says. She adds: “I’m over-packing an image with details that I want the viewer to take away a little bit and peel back.”
She also wanted to capture the physical quality of light, she explains. “You know the light, you’ve stood in the sunlight and you know how that feels.”
All photos © Varvara Mikushkina