"Wild Man 1"
Jeff Nachtigall, "Wild Man 1," 2014, acrylic on paper, 49” x 38”.
In Jeff Nachtigall’s view, male artists peak around Grade Seven. “There’s a wonderful awkward quality of guys shooting each other with guns and stabbing each other with knives,” he says. “There’s a strange sort of ugliness to some of that work that I think is really beautiful.”
Nachtigall, who places himself in the outsider camp, somewhere between Kafka and Don Quixote, explores that aesthetic in his recent body of work, Wild Men, using the raw energy, comic-book flair and faux wood-grain veneers that muscle his work into the so-weird-it’s-good category.
"Wild Man 5"
Jeff Nachtigall, "Wild Man 5," 2014, acrylic on paper, 49” x 38”.
While they are crudely executed, reflecting Nachtigall’s interest in folk art, he says the pieces are essentially self-portraits. He works without preliminary sketches, simply by making marks and responding to them, and compares his process to playing with action figures.
“I create these little narratives, or these glimpses into a narrative, where it’s a snapshot of something happening, even though I’m completely unsure as to what it is, exactly, that’s happening,” he says. “I like that ambiguity.”
Nachtigall, born in 1970 in Yorkton, Sask., studied art at the University of Regina, but dropped out of graduate school at Illinois State University. He spent years working a menial night job so he could paint by day, and often had so little cash he would dumpster dive for boards, wallpaper and other materials he could use to make art.
"Wild Man 9"
Jeff Nachtigall, "Wild Man 9," 2014, acrylic on paper, 49” x 38”.
Always prolific, he eventually became frustrated his career wasn’t taking off, and started to explore community-based art by providing art-making opportunities to residents in long-term care. That led to what he calls his “open studio” concept, which he markets as a way to reconnect marginalized people with their creativity. After getting involved in the community, he says his exhibition career started to take on a new life.
Jeff Nachtigall is represented by Newzones in Calgary. His work sells for $4,400 to $18,000.