By Laura Poole
In a garage that smells like heat and burning metal stands 18-year-old robot sculptor Chris Mora in his welding gear, with the pieces of his most recent steel projects, entitled Number Eight and a model AT-AT from “Star Wars,” laid out on the ground.
Seemingly reserved and quiet on the outside, Mora can actually talk for hours about his robots and yet only manages to share 90 percent of his passion in words; the rest is shown in his metal marvels.
This young artist started bringing his imaginative robots to life a year and a half ago when drawing and painting them no longer sufficed.
“It took me years to realize I didn’t like two-dimensional stuff,” said Mora. “I was making little sculptures out of pop cans and that’s part of it … I really wanted to SEE robots and the only way I could think of to do it was to draw them, but eventually I became so dissatisfied with the idea that I bought the welder.”
His mother, Teresa, was concerned at first – as any mother of a young man who suddenly proclaims he’s going to start welding would be – but saw this was the path for him.
“He’s always been artistic. It started when he was really young. I told him when he was 3 that I couldn’t build him Legos anymore, that he had to build them himself, and he’s been building ever since,” she said.
Self-taught, Mora bought all his own equipment and materials and started to weld life-size robots ranging in height from his first of 4 feet to the 10-foot sculpture in his front yard. It didn’t take long before locals noticed his work and began to ask him for their own pieces.
Mora says people would just walk up to his yard, admiring the giant sculptures out front, and begin talking to him about them. Soon he was making sculptures for residents of Wheat Ridge and making money, too, allowing him to further his passion and art.
Currently he is working on a piece for local family Moria and Mike Howsare, the design for which he’d been wanting to do for a long time. Finally the opportunity presented itself and he sold them the idea to commission a robot designed after his first guitar.
“He was much younger than I thought and was very articulate and enthusiastic about his work,” said Howsare. “We spoke a few times before I commissioned him to build me a robot, and settled on one he had already designed and was eager to build.”
“This is a very special robot to me and I’m going to make sure they know that, Mike and Moria, when I give it to them,” said Mora. “I’ve been daydreaming about this sculpture in specific for years. It’s pretty much going to be exactly what I want. So I’m still sort of working for myself while getting paid; the best of both worlds.”
Based on his guitar that he got when he was 14, Mora had originally made a painting of it before wanting to bring it to life. He told the couple that he could come up with another idea for them but that they would “have to wait a lot longer for me to come around with some fully fleshed-out designs.”
“This was already worked out because I never stopped thinking about this sculpture,” said Mora. Luckily, the Howsares liked the idea and Mora began bringing his dream robot to life.
Mora was always very creative as a child but he was particularly drawn to robots from a young age. One of his favorite movies, “The Iron Giant,” inspired and moved him to draw, paint and eventually sculpt these unique robots. He says all of his robots are sad and are created with something missing or off skew, like an arm or a broken kneecap, but are full of character and movement. He makes the connection with their eyes because that is where he sees them as more than inanimate objects, and he feels immense empathy for each and every one.
“Some people wonder why I make robots instead of people, and I view it as a way of connecting to a life form. They have eyes. I can feel their emotion. It’s a weird thing to say but it’s also one of those eccentric artist things to say,” said Mora. “It’s a way to relate to conscious intelligent life forms that isn’t through people. It’s my way of feeling connected to something else that’s conscious, it’s dissociative.”
Mora always encourages his buyers to commission a new piece since he says that is always his best work. Perfectionism and a strong drive to keep moving forward with his work keep him constantly striving for the best, although he does still have a place in his heart for his past pieces and he always learns from them.
“I have a love of mechanisms. I’m also really, really organized and methodical. I do things in a very particular way and I think that’s one of the only reasons I’m able to do what I do. I don’t know anyone else that does what I do; that does the complexity of what I do,” said Mora.
“I’m extremely proud of him,” said Teresa. “It’s pretty amazing to have an 18-year-old son who has that amount of talent and vision and is making it happen. To think that your child could eventually end up supporting himself just by doing something that he loves is pretty spectacular. Most people in life don’t get to do that.”
“I think it’s so awesome to meet Chris and see that such a young man can have passion and drive for his art and work so hard to make a living at it,” said Howsare. “I felt like I had to encourage our local artist by buying one of his sculptures with hopes that this will enable him to continue his work and provide our community with another great citizen.”
To see more of Mora’s sculptures visit his website at http://chrismoraart.tumblr.com/. For more information, email him at CMRobots@outlook.com or stop by his shop right across from Discovery Park.