Fresno Arts Council: CHRIS SORENSEN PROFILE
By Stephanie Gabriela Lopez
Chris Sorensen is an award-winning artist and pillar in the Central Valley arts
community. Also known as “the Man of Steel,” for his boundless energy and talent with metal,
Sorensen is famous for his whimsical and larger-than-life works in metal, clay, wood and bronze.
He has sculpted a variety of animals including a life-sized llama, giraffe, and elephant, as well
as, exotic birds, fish and spectacular abstracts. Sorensen’s most recent endeavor is a 600 pound
camel made out of scrap metal and clothes hangers. In total, Sorensen estimates that he has
created over 10,000 works of art.
Born on June 30, 1925 in Fresno, Sorensen will soon turn 89 and shows no signs of
slowing down. “I’m retired and I play here everyday,” Sorensen says. He adds that although
welding and making art is hard work, “it’s a fun hobby, and it’s strictly for fun.” He can still be
found in his Van Ness studio “playing” and showing visitors around the 21,000 square foot
property, which, presently, houses 40 artists. Sorensen leads the way in his red tricycle as he
provides visitors with an immersive look into the world of the artists who rent out spaces in the
studio. “This town is loaded with first-class good artists that never get to show their stuff,”
Sorensen says, adding that this was the reason why he started the studio in the first place,
because he wanted to get more people involved in the arts.
Sorensen got an unlikely start in the world of sculpting over 25 years ago when his son,
John, who was studying art at McLane High School came home one day with a request for an art
project. At the time, Sorensen, who had graduated with an engineering degree from Fresno State
and served in the U.S. Navy, owned WECO Supply Company in Fresno, which sold welding
supplies and automotive paint. Sorensen recalls that his son asked him to bring home a set of
torches so he could work on a metal sculpture. Sorensen says he had never heard of making
metal sculptures but once he saw the work his son was doing, he went back to school and took
every class they had in art and attended conventions all over the country.
In 1990, Sorensen retired, put up his art studio, and turned the WECO business over to
his son, who still runs it. Sorensen says that all his customers continue bring him their scrap
metal, which he rejuvenates. He adds that he has never found the need to buy metal to produce
any of his works. He says he is influenced by the works of Alexander Calder and Jackson
Pollock along with many others. “This country is loaded with good artists and you learn a little
bit from each one of them,” Sorensen says.
Making people smile, is Sorensen’s ultimate goal with every work. He is inspired by
people and insists that he doesn’t make art for money, rather, he makes art because it is what he
loves to do. “Art is a good form of entertainment,” Sorensen says. “Money disappears art doesn’t.
Art will stay. After you are gone, they still have your art. Your art doesn’t become worth
anything until you’re dead.”
Sorensen says his greatest accomplishment is simply being alive. He is most proud of the
work he has done in helping more people get involved in the arts and encourages young artists to
“keep doing it and don’t back off.” Sorensen has exhibited throughout the country winning
awards and recognition for his brilliant work.