In this series of 49 environmental portraits, Andrew Miksys explores the living history of the Lithuanian Roma, known in English-speaking countries a Gypsies. Baxt is a Romani word for fate, destiny and fortune; the Roma in Miksys portraits posses a baxt that is rich in family and tradition but also in hardship.
Miksys offers an insiders view of these Romani communities, in which stunning juxtapositions of color often co-exist with equally staggering poverty. While the faces of the Roma pictured here remain largely impenetrable, the spaces they inhabit act as entry points to this closed world: hallways, kitchens, and bedrooms are multi-layered compositions of wear-and-tear, provisional decorations, ephemera, and pictures that define the Romani present but also build up over time to depict past hopes, glories and struggle.
A portrait of Stalin or other artifacts from the Communist era occasionally surface in the images, but the insularity of poverty has built a wall around the Roma. There is a mix-and-match feeling to the clothes and home decoration; the items that adorn the people and homes seem to be there because baxt brought them along and not because they were chosen.
Despite the impoverishment in which some of Miksys subjects live, there is also dignity and pride. Eyes address the camera, sometimes laughingly, sometimes with clear sadness. Miksys has rephotographed a few of his subjects over the years. Manuela fist appears as a little girl in 2001, all dressed up in furry boots and a white dress and a look of reluctance. Several years later, in 2006, Manuela is pictured again, staring aggressively at the camera as she models a form-fitting dress and fuzzy slippers in her bedroom. The images in Baxt give a strong sense of the physicality of the Roma life. Miksys portraits build a communal picture of a people who continue to cope with poverty and discrimination and live to meet the viewer with a gaze of determination rooted in survival.
--photo-eye Booklist, Summer 2007
About the Author
Andrew Miksys (b. 1969) is a native of Seattle. His photography has been shown nationally and internationally including exhibitions at the New Orleans Museum of Art, Vilnius Contemporary Arts Centre, and De Appel Contemporary Arts Centre in Amsterdam. In 2002 he was selected by Photo District News as one of the "top 30 emerging photographers to watch" and in 2006 he was featured in Slate Magazine as "Slates' Artist of the Month." Miksys has also been the recipient of prestigious grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (2000) and the J. William Fulbright Program (1998 and 2002). He currently divides his time between Seattle and Vilnius, Lithuania. www.andrewmiksys.com.
Andrei Codrescu is a professor of English at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and a regular commentator on National Public Radio. He is also the editor of Exquisite Corpse: a Journal of Life & Letters - www.corpse.org. Born in Sibiu, Romania, he moved to America in the 1960's. In his hit documentary Road Scholar (1993) Codrescu drove across the United States in a cherry red '68 Cadillac convertible uncovering America's "wonderful excesses and ironies" along the way. He has published over 30 books of poetry, fiction, autobiography and essays. Two recent publications have included it was today; new poems and Wakefield, a novel. www.codrescu.com