Martha Friend, December Artist of the Month

Artist of the Month

What’s a brief overview of what you do? (Feel free to give a few examples.)

I work with found materials of every sort and description and create assemblages with them. I’m quite low tech although someday I plan to learn how to weld. I love to work with rust, old metal objects, ephemera, rocks, organic detritus of all kinds (milkweed, shells, driftwood), sparkly things, vintage finds, and old costume jewelry. I make dioramas, mobiles, wall pieces, sculptures, and some functional items like lamps and floor cloths.

Are there some past projects you’d like to mention in more detail? 

Two years ago I “discovered” spray paint and started making assemblages from old lamps and chandeliers that I spray painted orange and blue and put in my yard and on my porch. I LOVE the way these sculptures look in front of my orange Victorian house! I created a diorama for the Phone Art Box project here in Somerville. My box is on the side of the Rita Aid in Davis Sq. and is entitled “The Dreamaway.” My intention was to create a dreamscape that included the splendors of nature. Also, if you step inside the Public Library on Highland Av. and immediately look to your right, you will see a diorama entitled ‘Vintage Somerville” that I created about 10 years ago. It’s part of their permanent collection.

Is there anything new you’re working on, or an event that’s coming up? (This is where you get to plug your new stuff!)    

A few years back I bought a book on how to make canvas floor cloths using fabric as the design medium rather than paint.   There are many steps to the process-the fabric needs to be treated before you can work with it- but the results were pretty fabulous and I love the design possibilities of fabric. So I plan to return to making more of these this winter.

Why do you do what you do? What’s something you get out of it? 

I began my creative life in my teens as a photographer, and could get lost for hours, days, in the darkroom. Working on creative projects now, in my studio or in my backyard, is absorbing in the same way. I just love taking raw materials and transforming them into works of art. They start out as piles of junk, but with some vision, some glue, some patience, some trial and error, they become something completely new and exciting. Some people love to read, or play soccer. I love to make things. 
 
What got you involved in doing what you do? Is there someone or something that was important in getting you on your way? (A big break you got, or a mentor who helped you, etc.) 

As I mentioned before, I was a photographer for many years. I photographed hundreds of weddings over the years, but I also mastered black and white art photography. Lots of people encouraged me along the way- I had a neighbor in high school who built a darkroom for me in his basement, and that was a huge boon. Then about 15 years ago I put my cameras down and never returned to them, but I still had all this creative energy that needed to go somewhere.
 
Any thoughts on the local Somerville, or Boston-area creative scene? (No need to be a Somerville booster here.)

I’ve lived in Somerville since college, almost 40 years, and I just can’t imagine a better place to live right now. I’ve always had artist friends, but now they live on every corner, and it’s pretty fabulous. The funkiness of the art scene here is also very suited to my tastes and inclinations-anything goes! I wouldn’t be able to live in a town where I had to get approval from the historical society before I painted my house some unusual color. If you want to paint your house lemon yellow with lime green trim, no one fusses too much.  I like that freedom. It’s why my garden looks the way it does- a sculpture garden that knows no limits.
 
I’ve lived in Somerville for almost 40 years and have raised my 3 children here. I grew up on a farm in N.H. but moved to the city in college and never looked back. I love my family, making art, traveling to remote places, being in nature, going on treasure hunts of any sort, bicycling, staying healthy, and a million other things.