Kool Kat of the Week: God May Be Away on Business But Artist Chris Hamer is Tempted by Tom Waits

Posted on: Mar 30th, 2011 By:

BIG IN JAPAN, a solo art exhibition by Chris Hamer of works inspired by Tom Waits. Octane Coffee. April 1-30. Opening reception featuring special guests Blast-Off Burlesque, Fri. April 1, 7-10 PM.

The first time I met Chris Hamer was at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Monster Bash one summer at the Starlight Drive-In. As usual, the heat was broiling, but Hamer’s tent afforded not just welcome shelter from the heat but a jaw-dropping assortment of those ugly kitschy landscapes that are usually condemned to thrift stores and yard sales. Except looming by that tree, standing next to Jesus or rising out of the lake was a monster with one big bug-eye. Had I discovered Godzilla Americana?

Most of Hamer’s creatures, however, aren’t menacing but surprisingly friendly-looking, even shy and a bit gangly like they’re more nervous about meeting humans than you should be about them. In other words, the grinning red-bearded artist in a baseball cap not only has a comic sensibility and a talent for recycling found objects into something unexpected, but no worries about his art being dubbed “low brow” and even gloriously geeky. Even “Urbnpop,” the handle for his studio/company, sounds just right. Soon I realized I was running into him at all my favorite urban pop-culture hangouts—artist festival markets, H.C. Warner’s Alcove Gallery, Atlanta Rollergirls matches, comics conventions and even in Orlando at the Spooky Empire horror con.

All of that raises no doubt that Hamer is one quintessential Kool Kat. But when he announced that he was doing a solo art show dedicated to Tom Waits called BIG IN JAPAN at Octane Coffee in west Midtown, with Blast-Off Burlesque performing at the opening party on April Fools Day, it was a no-brainer that ATLRetro had to unearth the missing link between the pop-culture monsters and one of America’s more enigmatic gravelly-voiced rock singer-songwriters. 

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