KEARNEY — Chris Cox started his art career at a young age in Kearney.
“I’ve always been really obsessed with faces,” he said in an interview from his studio in Fort Collins, Colo. “That’s pretty much all I’ve ever drawn since I was a little kid. When I was growing up in Kearney, when I was 12 or 13, some of my friends would hire me to draw Bowman baseball cards. So I started hustling art when I was really little. I’d get paid 20 bucks to draw Bo Jackson or Michael Jordan.”
That sense of art entrepreneurship has stayed with Cox. He now creates alternative movie posters in addition to a career in design work.
“I started collecting screen-printed alternative movie posters back in 2009, about 10 years ago,” Cox said. “Around 2011, I decided to start making them.”
He started by making a poster for “Nosferatu,” a 1922 German Expressionist horror film directed by F.W. Murnau.
Cox now creates a handful of posters each year.
“I started getting invitations from galleries to exhibit and then participate in shows,” he said. “And then I started doing official work for movie studios.”
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Cox reels off a list of galleries on both coasts that feature his work. He also lists movie studios that he works with by creating movie posters.
An exhibit of Cox’s work continues on display through Friday at the Walker Gallery in the Fine Arts Building on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus. Admission to the show is free.
“This is something I just started doing for fun,” Cox said. “It has been for fun, but now there are collectors who commission me. They form groups and pool their money and then they hire me. That way I can do these outside of the view of the film community since it’s not an officially licensed product.”
After studying at UNK, Cox created a studio called Change The Thought in 2002.
In his artist biography, the artist writes, “In 2015, Cox turned back to his roots and centered the studio again around am emphasis on branding anchored by clean and rational typography.”
To help differentiate between his two passions, Cox, who is ambidextrous, uses his right hand to create his graphic design work. For his drawing, he uses his left hand.
“It’s super strange,” he said. “I’ve always had a hard time explaining it to people. There’s always been a pretty big distinction between my design and my illustration work. There are a lot of people who associate me with one or the other, which is ironic. It’s always been hard for me to figure out how to navigate that. I really make most of my money doing design.”
On his website, Cox describes his studio as “a design micro-consultancy, graphic design illustration, environmental design and branding studio located in Denver, Colo., helmed by founder Chris Cox. Typically an army of 1, Cox scales up to as much as a dozen experienced creatives depending on the project scope.”
Cox will attend a closing reception for the exhibit at 5-7 p.m. Friday at the Walker Gallery. A social for the UNK Art and Design alumnus is set 7-9 p.m. at the Alumni House. On Saturday, a closing reception for the UNK Art and Design Faculty Show at the Museum of Nebraska Art begins at 7 p.m.
Admission is free to all the events, which are part of “Kindred,” a fundraising initiative targeted toward maintaining and improving the offering and facilities of UNK’s Department of Art and Design.
As for his second career creating movie posters, Cox sees that venture as an offshoot of his passion for film.
“I love movies,” he said. “I think movies, specifically as they relate to American culture, hold a pantheon of inner working of our culture. All of the crazy things in films like violence, we have yet to parse.”
Cox sees films as a way for our culture to come to terms with serious topics.
“Working around movies is a way to hold up a mirror to our culture in America,” he said. “It gets people to think about who we are, as a people. I really like to put the very gritty aspects of the film on a canvas and push it right in people’s faces and see how they respond. I like to get a visceral response out of people.”