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What is ‘nart’? You’ll know it when you see it

Local artist Jim Siergey channels Popeye and The Far Side; exhibit opens Saturday, February 2

by Melanie Jongsma

HIGHLAND, Ind. (January 30, 2019) – It’s hard to explain what “nart” is—even for the man who created it. Illustrator, artist, cartoonist, and animator Jim Siergey knows there’s a distinction between “art” and “nart,” but the distinction is more of a gut feeling than a defined set of characteristics. “I know it when I see it,” he says.

Pieces from Jim Siergey’s nart exhibit. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

“Safe at Home,” by Jim Siergey. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The pieces Siergey has chosen for his nart exhibit, which opens this Saturday, give clues about what nart is. They are all black-and-white illustrations, and most involve some kind of clever silliness or visual wordplay. The style is reminiscent of early animations like Steamboat Willie and 1950s Popeye cartoons (which Siergey concurs were an influence), and the humor evokes 1980s desk calendars from The Far Side series.

“The same things I used to get sent to the principal’s office for doing, people now pay me to do,” he smiles.

From Chicago to Munster

Siergey’s work blends illustration with wordplay. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Siergey has lived and worked in Chicago for 40 years and only recently moved to Munster, Indiana. (He still struggles to say the word “suburbs,” choosing “small town” instead.) The reasons for the move involve family, taxes, and aging—their previous home was a 120-year-old building, and Siergey and his wife, anticipating retirement, did not want to invest their limited income into maintaining it.

“We thought it would be a big change, ’cause we’ve lived in the city our whole lives,” he says about life in small-town Indiana. “but we got inured to it very quickly. The only difference is, I can’t just walk to any place I want to.” Instead, he walks behind a lawnmower in the summer and a shovel in the winter.

to Highland

When a friend heard Siergey was moving to Munster, she suggested he should do a show. Together they scouted different galleries, including the Promise You Art House in Highland, Indiana, where they both agreed the “vibe” was perfect. Owner Dave Lubarski bought the house at the southwest corner of Kennedy and Clough less than two years ago, and he and his sons began remodeling it into “an eclectic hub for art and art services.” The Lubarski family has lived in Highland their whole lives, and the house’s history dates back to the Prohibition era. “We love the town of Highland, and all three of my kids are artists,” explains Lubarski, “so [this business] was like a no-brainer. We’re all about inspiring other artists.”

Promise You Art House is located at 8830 Kennedy Avenue in Highland, Indiana. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Having been open for business only about a year, the Promise You Art House has already hosted seven exhibits. Siergey’s nart exhibit will be the eighth, and the weather on Saturday, Opening Day, is forecasted to be about 60 degrees warmer than today, so locals may be ready to venture out of the house.

Nart buttons will be given on Opening Day, while supplies last.
The Opening Day reception on Saturday, February 2, runs from noon to 6:00pm. Siergey will be on hand to welcome guests, and nart buttons will be given out while supplies last. The exhibit continues through April 6.

Like any artist, Siergey is reluctant to project specific hopes onto Opening Day or the entirety of the exhibit. Recognizing that his work is somewhat offbeat and cerebral, he only dares to hope that there might be “some form of appreciation”—or at least that the pieces won’t be stained with tomatoes by the end of the showing.

The works will range in price from $100 to $500. Though Siergey has fond attachments to all of them, his recent move and new phase of life has brought him to a point where he’s ready to let them go to new homes.

Forced to choose just one piece to pose with, Artist Jim Siergey pondered before selecting “Monkey with Frida Kahlos.” The piece is nart for those who are familiar with the work of Frida Kahlo. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Promise You Art House is located at 8830 Kennedy Avenue in Highland, Indiana, and is open to the public on Thursdays and Fridays from 4:00–8:00pm and on Saturdays from 11:00am–7:00pm. Admission is free. For further information, visit

Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.