Rob Nightingale, 53, sits comfortably on an overstuffed couch in his gallery, Wilder Nightingale Fine Art on Kit Carson Road, and greets visitors in his relaxed and amiable manner. He prefers to let people walk around at their leisure, soaking in all of the art, as opposed to pouncing on them.
He also calmly greets Theo, a Siamese cat who saunters into the space from somewhere in the back. Three years ago, the feline showed up at his back door and decided the gallery would be a good home. She's named for his mother because, as Nightingale says, "They both look over me." It doesn't hurt that Theo is also good for sales.
The women in Nightingale's life have been instrumental. His gallery is named for his maternal grandmother's maiden name and his middle name (Wilder) and his last name.
"They were so encouraging and supportive of my art studies," he says of his grandmothers and mother. His father, however, wasn't so keen on his son studying to be an oil painter at Columbia College of Chicago, his hometown.
But after college, Nightingale didn't pick up a brush very often and instead found himself working in "non-art-related retail." It was in 1990 while he was visiting a high school friend who lived in Taos when his path took a turn.
Still passionate and drawn to art, he quickly noticed how art-centric Taos is. He landed a job with a gallery. After ending employment there, he and a friend opened a gallery of their own on Sept. 30, 1991. He eventually bought her out and never looked back.
"I never thought I'd be a business owner," Nightingale shares surrounded by all of the colors, shadows and shapes hanging on the walls. "It just happened. I just kept with it."
Wilder Nightingale Fine Art has been a shining beacon of the talent in Taos ever since. A large percentage of the artists he represents are local. And if they aren't local, they are at the very least regional.
Running a gallery in a competitive art market like Taos is no walk in the park. He admits it is an "economic roller coaster," but adds, "I must like it because I'm still here."
Well, that and he loves Taos, especially its "small-town feel."
And Nightingale does more than give local artists exposure and income; as much as he can, he contributes to the community – often in the form of fundraisers for causes such as the Taos Men's Shelter.
He still doesn't put paint to canvas very often, but when he does, the result is typically wrapped in polarity because while he likes all kinds of artistic styles, contrast is his favorite.