Kris Chavez has a thing for robots. Not the sleek, silvery creatures with dials and other accoutrements we've seen in classic science-fiction movies. These robots are hulking oblongs with lopsided grins and spindly arms and legs. They play pranks, wear bow ties, fall in love with phone booths, and knit with power lines.
They're about as menacing as Grandpa Munster.
Chavez, an artist and jeweler, started his robot oeuvre with enameled pendants. After shaping copper into shallow, open-backed rectangles, he'd create faces by heating ground glass of various colors and "pushing around" the melted results.
"It was a song that I heard by the Flaming Lips, about a girl battling evil robots, and I wanted to make an army of robots," Chavez says. "I still haven't made the girl that's going to fight these, but that's next on the list of things to make."
Chavez has shown his work in group shows at Swirl Wine Bar, but this is his first solo show at the popular Manitou Springs lounge. He'd like to show his jewelry and paintings at more venues, but has a problem other artists would envy: His work tends to end up in art lovers' homes every time he shows it.
Which isn't something the 32-year-old expected. Though he studied art while living in California, he didn't take it seriously throughout his 20s.
"I thought, 'Well, I like art, but I have a 9-to-5 job, and art can be a nice thing to do on the side.' And I had that attitude up to about two years ago, when I quit my full-time job."
He still works one day a week at a local arts-and-crafts supply store, but spends most of his time in the studio he shares with his wife, Liese Chavez. The winner of both the Indy's and Gazette's Best Artist awards, she's acclaimed for her haunting paintings of dreamy-faced girls and women.
After a day of creativity, the couple — who, disclosure, are good friends with the assigning editor of this story — hang their works-in-progress and ask for each other's opinion.
"One of us will say, 'Do you think I should change the color of this?' Or, 'What do you think of the positioning of that?' And we might change stuff," he says.
"We'll do it while we're working, too," Liese adds. "I rely heavily on Kris about composition."
At first glance, their artwork is vastly dissimilar — her paintings are soft and curvy, his are hard-edged and vivid. But both applaud their spouse's ability to tell stories with color, lines and shapes. And their philosophy is the same: They want people to have positive thoughts while viewing their artwork.
That takes on a new poignancy during the region's fire crisis.
"Just because there are so many other things going on in people's lives, they need something to look at that might take them back away from this other thing," Kris says.
Of course, Manitou being Manitou, its residents may not raise an eyebrow while viewing the benign invaders at Swirl. Still, Kris hopes to include a "Robot Survival Kit," with a paper robot mask and a white flag that will double as a blindfold. Somebody's got to be ready in case the robots defeat us wretched humans.