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AJ Nafziger ’08 returns to campus for solo exhibition

AJ Nafziger

AJ Nafziger
AJ Nafziger

In November 2019, AJ Nafziger ’08 (studio art) returned to the University of Indianapolis to exhibit a collection of work, “The Horizon Unfolds,” at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center Gallery. The exhibition, featuring drawings in pencil and liquid graphite, is on display through December 6, 2019.

Nafziger’s work evokes fantastical landscapes featuring planets, UFOs and other unexpected objects set amid undulating backgrounds. Expertly rendered curtains – perhaps leading to other worlds – ripple on the canvas. Science fiction is a strong influence on his work.

“The narrative present in my work depicts the runaway growth of mysterious, abstract forms within a reality that shifts between ideally planned fictional futures, the illusion of logical governing patterns, and the detailed, actual landscape of real life. This is my attempt to portray the sense of mystery, wonder, and confusion that not only characterize science fiction, but also is rapidly making its way into our own modern realities,” Nafziger writes in his statement.

ajNafziger_facebook2An Indiana native, Nafziger now lives in Chicago and pursues his artwork while also working in conservation. His original artwork has been exhibited throughout the United States and has been featured in numerous publications.

Q. How did the opportunity arise to have your work on exhibit at UIndy?

Jim Viewegh, the art department chair, offered me the opportunity to me a couple of years ago after I completed my MFA at Arizona State University. 

Q. How does it feel to be exhibiting your work at your alma mater?

It is amazing. As a student, I would come down to the gallery often when taking breaks from drawing or painting and just browse the gallery. I spent a lot of time looking at other artists’ work and becoming inspired. I know a lot of other students who did the same, so it is cool to think that students might be finding inspiration in my work right now. The opening of the show was a blast and I am very happy to be exhibiting at UIndy.

Q. Were there any faculty who mentored you while you were a student at UIndy?

Jim Viewegh, who teaches drawing and painting, was definitely crucial to me pursuing a career as an artist. I started as a graphic design major but was inspired to switch after taking beginning oil painting, a medium I had never worked in before. 

 Q. How did your education at UIndy help build a foundation for your success as an artist? 

UIndy gave me not only a great education in the foundations of drawing and painting, but also taught me the work ethic needed to succeed. It is essential to understand that art is something that comes out of hard work and practice, which can often feel like a job or chore in that you just have to do it sometimes even when you don’t really want to. A lot of young people think artists always feel creative or are always inspired or in the mood to create, which isn’t necessarily true. It’s like any other job: you just have to go in and get your work done, which is the most valuable lesson I learned.

Q. When did your love of art begin, and what does it mean to you to be able to marry your passions with your “day job,” something that so many people aspire to do?

My dad is an art teacher, so art has always been present as an influence in my life. He taught me to start drawing basically as soon as I could use a pencil and I have just always gravitated towards it. I’m very lucky to still be spending so much time doing the first activity I ever loved to do. 

My day job is in art conservation and restoration. I get to work on a lot of really cool and important artwork all day, then come home and work on my own stuff, so basically I am just surrounded by artwork all the time, which is a situation I feel extremely fortunate to be in. Being surrounded by art all the time is something I have dreamed of for a long time and finally seeing that dream come true is one of the best things that has ever happened for me.