To the eyes of an outsider, America appears to be this sun-kissed land of opportunity where everyone’s dreams can come true. The land of the free. Ads and mainstream Hollywood films have been portraying this story for as long we can remember, and so those who don’t live an American’s reality can’t really be blamed for harboring this perception.
The “real” America is much, much different, perhaps even gritty and raw. This is what artist and photographer Nick Mansfield aims to show through his series, Definitions. Here, America is depicted as “a place where the problems and restrictions we face are as real as the freedoms and opportunities we have been told we have.”
Following the footsteps of artists Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper, and Gregory Crewdson, who themselves had made statements about the American dream through art, Nick set out to do a project that he believes is “the first to show what America’s really like for everyone. Not just one group.”
Per Nick’s intention, Definitions, which portrays the loss of childhood innocence in 20 frames, bring people outside their comfort zone – “empathy through forced exposure,” as he puts it.
“Definitions speaks to many of the social problems that everyday Americans face. It looks at how children are affected by these issues. How these singular moments uproot their childhoods, ripping the rose-colored glasses from their eyes and thrusting them into the ‘real world’,” Nick wrote on Kickstarter, where he had successfully sought funding for his plans to print and feature Definitions in exhibits at various galleries.
With Definitions, Nick hopes to create “conversations that matter” and for the viewer “to find a way to see your neighbor in a different light. Or maybe realize that you’re not alone in your fight.”