Vintage voltmeters and pressure gauges get a whole new lease on life in the garage of Aaron Voigt's home in Mesa. Ditto for knobs and dials from antique appliances, old bicycle gears, automobile parts, suspension springs, and various other castoff bits from old devices.
Voigt and his wife have to park their vehicles in the driveway or on the street as the entirety of their garage is devoted to making his square-shaped creations, which will be on display at Red Hot Robot through December 11 as a part of the month-long "Rust & Gears" exhibition.
Voigt's love with mid-century culture is evident in the retro-futuristic look of his artwork (which resembles the Space Age automatons from 1950's sci-fi and B-movies), as well as the the tiki head decorating a shelf, the beach cruiser hanging from the ceiling, and the surf rock playing on a stereo in the garage.
"I guess I'm stuck in what I think what was the best era for robots, which was the '50s and early '60s," Voigt says. "I loved The Jetsons and that whole streamlined era. It was a mellow time, everything was a bit more innocent and happy. Everything was shiny and new."
It's been two weeks since the Voigts moved into the house, and he's been busy both unpacking and making dozens of pieces for his joint Red Hot Robot show. which will also feature similarly retro-looking recycled robot sculptures made by ink-slinging artist Mikey Sarratt of High Noon Tattoo. According to Voigt, the opening of the show this past Friday night was a smash success as dozens of people showed up at Red Hot Robot to peruse their creations (Check out this video for a look at their art and the opening.)
A third-generation welder who was taught the trade by his father, Voigt creates his robots cutting and carving 16-gauge square steel tubing with grinders and gas arc welding torches before he grafts on recycled objects.
While a majority of his efforts are box-shaped robot heads, which resemble high-tech tikis to a certain degree, Voigt's also recently created a three-foot-tall automaton using parts from a vintage Packard and is working on a "hooker robot" made from an old parking meter and crosswalk light.
To obtain his raw materials for his creations, Voigt and his friends have haunted government auctions, surplus depots, and junk shops both locally and on road trips. (Fittingly, he scored a number of parts for his robots at a few stores in Los Alamos, New Mexico, near the where the atomic bomb was developed, a landmark event in American history that helped inspire hundreds of '50s sci-fi flicks.)
Voigt's garage contains drawer after drawer filled with all the parts, antique knobs, gauges, gears, dials, light bulbs, and other objects. Parts are also scatted on workbenches, tabletops, and even on the floor. He creates things on the fly and rarely plans out beforehand which parts he'll use, tending to rummage through his collection of junk looking for just the right part for a robot.
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"I'm trying to mimic the old tin toys of the 1950s," Voigt says. "So if can find something that just looks right and mount it so it looks believable as a robot component, or it adds to the robot look, I'll use it."