A column curated by staff of the Urbana Public Arts Program
Nika Lucks is a local photographer originally from the Chicago Southside. Her most recent work, People of Speech: Part I, draws inspiration from parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and so on. In this photography series, subjects were invited to embody the parts of speech that exemplify who they are. People of Speech: Part I is a series of images of Black and Brown people expressing the words that represent their unique identities. The People of Speech series will premier parts II and III in 2018.
For this issue, Public Arts Coordinator Rachel Lauren Storm met with local artist and photographer Nika Lucks, to learn more about her artistic process.
R: Tell me a little about yourself and your past creative work.
N: Well I’m from Chicago—the Southside. I went to four different high schools when I was younger. Which sucked! I was always the new girl. We moved a lot. Just being poor, we couldn’t afford things. I’ve always been into creative things. Art has been an outlet for me. It started with poetry in 5th grade. I was an odd kid and didn’t really have friends, so I read and wrote my own poems.
I did spoken word here in Champaign-Urbana at Speak Café [the poetry open mic at Krannert Arts Museum]. It was a great outlet for me. I still write but my poems can be too happy sometimes. Sometimes it feels like people don’t really want to hear about the happy life or the good times. I feel like I need to find another audience.
R: What inspires you as an artist?
N: Because we moved a lot we lost a lot. Baby photos, photos of the past, and things that really mattered. It really bothered me. I saw Sabrina, with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. It changed my life! I saw myself in the main character. We had so many things in common. These two experiences inspired me to become a photographer.
R: What do you hope your work inspires in others?
N: I like to call what I do photo art. Not the “sit still, look pretty” kind of work.
With this collection People of Speech: Part I, my goal is to see more people of color and elderly people represented in art. And not in a “homeless,” “poor,” “depressing,” “thug life” representation. It sends a message that that is all there is to us.
I want to do more upbeat, fun artwork—sort of like my poetry. There is sadness and depression all over the world and I’m not saying we shouldn’t acknowledge this, but this isn’t all we are.
R: What can we expect from you next as an artist?
N: Well, next you will see People of Speech II and III. The second series will feature Asian and Pacific Islanders and the third will feature people 60 and over. I’m working on photo greeting cards from the first installment of People of Speech.
I’m definitely a Nerd girl! I volunteer at conventions, horror cons and comic cons—and I’m getting into it more. I think in the future that I’ll also make horror art! I love the fake blood and gore and cosplay photos.
To view more of Nika Lucks’ photography work visit @NikaLucks on Instagram.
Editors note: Nika’s work is currently exhibited at the Independent Media Center at 202 S. Broadway, Urbana. Nika will also be one of the 13 artists exhibiting at the “Art Though the Generations” exhibit at the Champaign County Nursing Home on Sunday, February 25, 1-5 pm. Her work is also currently exhibited at the Independent Media Center.