You’ve Got a Friend on Highland Avenue | SCOUTV Episode #9

martha friendFound-assemblage artist Martha Friend in her home at Highland Avenue and Sycamore Street. Photos by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

Meet Martha Friend—a found-object assemblage artist and collector who’s spent decades filling her house with art and antiques from around the world.

Friend is one of the hundreds of artists who open their doors for Somerville Open Studios each year, but you don’t have to wait until May 6 and 7 to check it out. In this installment of SCOUTV, we’re taking a behind-the-scenes tour of her incredible home and the collection that fills it.

“I come from a family that loves yard sales and old dumps in the woods,” chuckles Martha Friend. She’s been on the hunt for treasure since she was a high-school student in rural New Hampshire, and many of these items still surround her today at her home and studio at the corner of Highland Avenue and Sycamore Street.

Friend, a sculpture and found-object assemblage artist, is constantly collecting everything from old photographs to costume jewelry to dolls (and doll heads), objects that often find their way into her dioramas. This kind of assemblage art is a time-consuming process, and each project tells a story.

That’s also the case in the rooms of Friend’s gorgeous terra-cotta-colored Victorian, which have themes like “The Obama Room” or “The Midwest Room.” Her bedroom is modeled after a Victorian brothel, though “it could look a little more brothel-y,” she jokes. “I do the best I can.” You’ll find lots of turtles, babies, shells and rusted metal, some organized by color, others, by area of origin.

Friend’s collection includes art she found all over the world, from her travels in Central America to the Goodwill in Davis Square. And it’s constantly evolving.

“People are so reluctant to have a lot of stuff around,” Friend says, recalling all the times she’s heard people say that if they bring something into the house, something else has to go. That’s not a belief she holds; she loves her objects and has no shame in that. They make her think of her husband, of her children, of times and places and experiences that have been meaningful to her. “Collecting is joyous, really,” she says. “It’s so fun to go out and find things.”

She does, however, caution against getting too attached to items, saying simply (and somewhat profoundly): “When things break, things break. Sometimes you can fix them, sometimes you cannot.”

SCOUTV is a multimedia collaboration between Scout Somerville and SCATV that brings the stories in each print edition of Scout to life with video and audio. You can find more installments in the series here.

This story originally appeared in the March/April print edition of Scout, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Somerville (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.

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