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Neighbor Spotlight: Nik Bastman

October is Nik Bastman’s favorite month. That will be obvious if you look at his arm on the front page. Of course the arm is attached to Nik all year long, celebrating fall colors, bats, pumpkins, ghosts and other delightful and slightly scary things throughout the year. That is just his right arm. I will discuss his left arm later.

“Didn’t want to end up there,” Nik says.

He’s not saying he didn’t like it. Maybe he is just yearning for something more stimulating.

He attended Gogebic Community College in Ironwood where he studied offset printing, graphic design, drawing and photography. His family supported his decisions on education and life. He earned an associate degree from GCC.

He first left home to go to Bloomington Indiana at about the age of 20. He had friends there who shared his interests, and who encouraged him to move there.

As with most things, Nik seemed positive about his experiences. He had an interesting job that involved design work. But Bloomington was a long way from home and he was homesick. He found himself often driving home (12 hour drive) on weekends.

After a year or so he moved to Rhinelander to be closer to his family. He took some odd jobs in retailing. He became an entrepreneur.

Nik started his own portrait business, doing weddings in the summer. This was a good business and profitable. But weddings can be a drag, and affairs of the heart can be challenging. Nik escaped from an unsuccessful affair to learn more about himself while he learned about chickens.

He moved to a farm seven miles from town called “Shaky Acres” owned by a farmer in his sixties who raised free range chickens for eggs and meat. The eggs and fryers were popular at local farmers markets.

Nik had been a vegetarian since he was young and became a vegan as well. No chicken or eggs for him.

He was a member of a co-operative food store in Ironwood called NorthWind. While on the farm he became involved in the theatrical department of a local tech school and built sets for them for two years. He “loves learning” new things, all things.

It is time to bring Nik to Milwaukee. He decided to continue his art education at UWM to earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 2009. Nik likes working with metals and photography. He has been inspired by the work of his metals and jewelry instructor, Frankie Flood. He is taking his education at his own pace. He first lived in Milwaukee on the East Side but soon moved to Buffum and Meinecke.

In Milwaukee, the first place to do his shopping became the Riverwest Co-op. Former Café manager Michelle Jones got him involved in the kitchen. Eventually Nik was helping to make tamales and volunteering in the Café. He now works at the Co-op Café. He “loves it” and says it is the “best job I’ve had in my life”.

On Riverwest, “Never seen a neighborhood like this. It’s a great community. I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon”.

Now returning to what caught my eye while being served by Nik at the Co-op. His tattoos.

Two inspirations are displayed on his arms. “Nightmare before Christmas” by Tim Burton influences his right arm and Roman Dirge’s comic, “The Monster in My Tummy,” inspires his left arm.

Nik says he has many conversations about his tattoos and most are positive. He seems more than willing to talk about them. The monster version has ego, himself and the tattoo artist as well as stomach lining illustrated. On his back are large owl wings added in 2009.

Speaking about his tatoos, he says, “I like the way they look. They’re not going anywhere”.

The tattoo artist is Nik’s friend Dan Dittmer. Nik traded photography for his work on his body. Dittmer was in Hopkins, Minnesota when the process began. Numerous trips from Rhinelander to Hopkins were required to finish the work. Tracing the designs from paper on to his arms and then black lining the images was done first before adding color. One arm took 45 to 55 hours to finish.

Nik’s photography has been published in Tattoo Magazine, Savage Magazine and the European “Tattoo Soup” Photo Book. His own work uses multiple media on the themes of human psyche, imagination, death, contemporary social situations and the normality of isolation.

Boo!