Weld Click Rip

Weld, Click, Rip

By Chris Helms,
Chronicle Staff
Cambridge Chronicle
January 6, 2005

NOCA artist Jeannie Motherwell, seen here in her North Cambridge studio, will exhibit her collages with two other NOCA artists in an exhibit called "Rock, Paper, Scissors." (Photo by Zara Tzanev)








Weld, Click, Rip
Three North Cambridge Artists join forces for an exhibit

The rules are clear on playgrounds everywhere: Paper covers Rock, Scissors cut Paper, Rock smashes Scissors.

But not this month. At least not at the Newton Free Library, where three North Cambridge Arts artists display works meant not to outdo one another, but rather to highlight comparisons between their very different mediums. Hence the name of the exhibit: "Rock, Paper, Scissors."

Sculptor Dave Borrus works in steel, not rock. John Heymann prints his photos of the natural world on paper. And collage artist Jeannie Motherwell represents "scissors," though she points out she most often rips the images she uses instead of cutting them.

Motherwell credits Borrus with sparking the idea for the show. The three knew each other through North Cambridge Arts, an association which helps local artists connect. One of Motherwell's favorite things about NOCA, as the group calls itself, is the monthly critique session. Works-in-progress profit from cross-disciplinary critiques, she says.

"Everyone's work is so different," Motherwell said. "We pick it apart. I get a sense of how they are seeing it."

None of the artists in the library show are originally from Cambridge, but they each credit the city with being a fantastic place to hone his or her craft.

Photographer Heymann followed a college buddy east to Cambridge after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He said he noticed the difference immediately.

"Cambridge is a real mecca for artists, especially in the '70s and '80s when I first started," Heymann said from his Somerville home and studio. "I came from Milwaukee, where there was one photo school. There were a lot more opportunities in Cambridge."

Heymann lived in Mid-Cambridge for a decade. He said the now-defunct Cambridge Photo Co-Op was especially helpful as he built his portfolio and strengthened his professional network. He has also been part of the Cambridge Arts Council's Cambridge Artists Series.

Sculptor Borrus, a native of New Jersey whose expertise in maritime construction brought him to the Bay State, is also keenly aware of the value of being a Cambridge-based artist.

"It's a wonderful place to be," Borrus said of North Cambridge in particular. "For whatever reason, a lot of people came here after the shake-out from rent control."

Rental price caps ended in 1995, spurring artists to seek studio or home space in North Cambridge. A decade ago, Borrus notes, his Harvey Street home was a relative bargain.

Borrus started bending nails with a torch when he was 12. He nurtured that childhood interest into a welding career. Now, one of the first things he'll tell you about himself is that he is proud to be a journeyman, welder and diver in Piledrivers Local 56 union.

During the day, Borrus welds straight lines and right angles on I-beams. But in his studio, he gets to use the same materials to build up sculptures as if they were clay, not iron.

"It allows you to capture things you can't capture in wood or plastics," he said during a break from welding in his North Cambridge studio.

He points to a steel gymnast caught at the peak of his vault, held aloft by a single drop of weld.

"The only medium you can get away with that in is steel," Borrus says with an appreciative nod toward the rebar on his workbench. It's clear from his expression that three decades of welding on the job and in the studio hasn't dimmed his sense of awe at the process.

The exhibit runs through Jan. 30 at the Newton Free Library, 330 Homer St., Newton. For information, call 617-796-1360. There will be a reception on Jan. 13 at 6 p.m. Contact Chris Helms at [email protected].