Multimedia artist Nik Duran Geiger is impressively well put-together. Having never met before, I'm immediately able to pick him out of a semi-crowded coffee shop: a clean suit and slicked-back hair, a thin but stylish mustache.
Geiger is a relative unknown in Santa Fe who has rarely shown in galleries, but he's made the creation of art his full-time job as far back as he can remember. Rather than embracing the Canyon Road commercial aesthetic, you'll find him at pop-up markets, Contemporary Spanish Market or the Sunday Railyard Artisan Market and Etsy.
It's not that he doesn't have the appeal or interest to show in more traditional spaces, it's just that showing at markets and fairs is in his blood. His mother is a multimedia artist as well, and Geiger recalls a childhood traveling the country from arts event to arts event in an old paddy wagon his father renovated into a camper. In the camper, he'd watch horror movies and John Waters stuff, he'd read comics and draw; his mother would teach him how to work in ceramics and with paints.
"I just create stuff," Geiger says. "It's all I know how to do."
So how did I find this guy? In the corner of Second Street Brewery's Rufina Taproom during a recent event, he was selling prints, paintings and hand-glazed tiles emblazoned with luchadores, giant squid and colorful insects. He says he buys the tile blanks pre-fired from Italy, but the use of sketches, waxing and various glazing styles and techniques make them his own.
"And I've been experimenting more and more," he says before rattling off different types of glaze he plans to implement in upcoming pieces. Geiger's sketching style is unique as well. He'll cull an image from a film or a song and craft a scene around it. "Tequila," he says as he flips through his sketchbook in search of an example. Here I see a rough sketch of a man beside a liquor bottle, and as Geiger flips through more pages, he continues to explain.
"Then I like to think of it like a scene from a movie," he says, displaying sketches of the same content from differing angles. Other, cleaner sketches in the book evoke the early stages of a watercolor he completed, though still in their first incarnations; this one, a woman with scorpions in her hair.
For the most part, Geiger is self-trained, though he did spend roughly a year studying portraiture and oil painting at the Academia de Artes Fábula in Bogotá, Colombia. The program was supposed to run three years, but once he'd learned what he wanted to, Geiger says he was "good." He moved back to Santa Fe shortly thereafter. Today he lives and works in Madrid, and he's constantly looking for new ways to share and survive through his practice. Commission work helps him pay the bills, but in the leaner winter months, he starts to wonder about other avenues.
"I've definitely struggled in figuring out how to sell my work," he tells SFR. "I tend to do things that aren't really what you'll see in a gallery in Santa Fe—like portraits of Al Capone—and anyway, I don't want to seem pompous."
This isn't about imposter syndrome, though Geiger says he did struggle with that in art school; it's more about realistic expectations. I admire this, even if I think his work has earned him a little pomposity—and I wouldn't find it out of place in galleries like Pop or KEEP Contemporary (are you galleries listening?) and I'm frankly surprised I hadn't heard of him before the last few weeks.
Perhaps it's that older people tend to collect art, he says, and "older people don't really get it."
There is a certain creepy aspect to his prints and paintings that might not speak to your average collector, but that's hardly all he does; there was a glorious portrait of Divine I happened to spy in his briefcase that is just plain beautiful. Further, it raises interesting questions about what constitutes "art" as we know it, and what constitutes a "craft."
Geiger, I think, falls someplace in between, though his illustrations and creations are both stunning and impressive. This is why I've written about him when he doesn't have an upcoming show or gallery representation in general. He's just that good.