Chris Messer's artistic career is in the toilet and he wants it that way.
As one of the guest artists now on display at Henry's, 11 E. Eighth St., Messer decided to position his art in the one confined space that virtually assures every patron would have their own one-man show. So he placed his paintings in the Unisex bathroom. Surprisingly, Messer says he's heard very few potty jokes, but he has received plenty of thoughtful accolades from supporters.
And in what just might be the most backhanded compliment ever bestowed upon an artist, someone liked one of his works so much that they swiped the painting out of the john.
"Everyone who has seen my work has really liked it, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to show my work at Henry's. I did have one painting stolen, but if people like it that much, what do you say?" he asks laughing. "I even have my own police case going on it."
All joking aside, Messer certainly does carry the artistic qualifications around to back up his art. He earned a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary art from Eastern New Mexico University, so he's readily qualified for an art career that is if he can make potential employers or gallery owners think outside the box when they scan his rsum.
"I have a knowledge of art, from non-linear editing to sculpting and printmaking. I can do all these things, but most people don't want someone doing all those things. They want something specific," he says.
Until recently, Messer's art career took a backseat to his job working in digital media for an Internet Web site, where he developed sports education materials for children. Since finishing that gig, he is pursuing art more extensively. He doesn't have a studio to call his own, so he creates all his work in his kitchen.
Describing the paintings as abstract with an emphasis on the figure, Messer creates geometric shapes and figurines. For his latest piece, Messer taped up manilla paper to Masonite bricks, and then painted on it using household latex to get the desired effect. It may sound funky, but it works.
"The paper has a nice surface. It warps a bit, but it does come off nice," he says. "When I wake up, if I feel all blank, I paint. If I have no money to go out and do things, I paint. I do what I feel."
Messer came to Lawrence for the Internet job, but has since stayed in town because of the arts community. It was through positive word of mouth, from one artist to another, that enabled Messer to mesh with the staff members of Henry's, who are always on the lookout for new artists.
"Compared to the other places I've lived, this is quite nice," he says. "It's one of the best art communities I've seen."
There is a method behind Messer's eccentric, colorful twists and circles that he puts on the canvas. And if nothing else, he thinks his art helps him relate better with strangers.
"I like for people to look at my work and see what they feel. I want it to evoke images," Messer says. "I think the creativity in painting can be for egotistical reasons. I like to hear what people think of the work. It's a way of building communication with people, and I can grow from that."