It was a super-exciting week here at The Avenue Concept last week. Providence was buzzing with creative energy as many INFLUX artists put the finishing touches on their projects, both downtown and in the Cultural Corridor.
Today I’m excited to share another artist profile as part of our ongoing series.
Artist Profile: Frank Barada
For more than 15 years, Frank Barada has been perfecting his technique as a welder and metal artist. “My younger brother who I call ‘Maestro’ started working at Castillo Iron, a fence company in Johnston [now moved to Brockton, MA] and he used to come home with these cool little figurines he welded together from the scrap iron. At that point, I had no idea what welding even was, but I thought it was cool and wanted to learn more,” Frank recalls.
Frank’s brother took him down to the shop and “they noticed how I’d taken such an interest in welding that they taught me how to weld. I ended up working there for nearly 10 years,” Frank says. While there, Frank constructed wrought iron fencing for Habitat for Humanity as well as commercial and residential applications.
Finding a home at The Steel Yard
Nowadays as an artist, Frank spends most of his time in his studio at The Steel Yard, an organization that has been a catalyst in the creative revitalization of the industrial valley district of Providence. “I’ve been hanging out at The Steel Yard for more than 10 years—and they’ve really helped me get into galleries and put my work out there,” says Frank.
Every year Frank participates in The Steel Yard’s annual Iron Pour event and has contributed a variety of their projects, including a massive steel dragon that stood about 12” tall x 16” long.
As Frank describes, “It had a flame-thrower in the nose so he was breathing fire, and he had red flares in his eyes. The Iron Pour is all about cast iron, so it had a trough in his mouth and a whole system set up so he’d be spewing iron as his head oscillated.”
INFLUX project: Found Objects
Frank’s project for INFLUX involves 6 freestanding sculptures (3 sets of 2 pieces) made out of repurposed metal using a variety of techniques—casting, bending, forging, torch heating, and welding.
The pieces can be found on top of Nidal Fakhouri’s tile pedestals in The Dean Hotel parking lot downtown. The sculpture sets include:
Set 1 (Fountain St. side):
- “Cat” – made with identical S-shaped pieces created with a bending machine
- “Butterfly” – made from scrap pieces of fire escape grating from Firehouse 13 on Broad St.
Set 2 (Washington St. side):
- “Tube Dude” – made of found pieces of bent straight rod welded together
- “Channel Man” – made of square tubing and pieces of iron channel welded
Set 3 (Washington St. side):
- “Letter Tree I” – made with cast iron molded letters welded to create a palm tree effect
- “Letter Tree II” – a variation of Letter Tree I
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Frank’s creative process
When it comes to creating his art, Frank tends to take a fairly laid-back approach—often letting the material inform the final shape of the work.
“A lot of times, especially when I don’t have any set direction—when I’m just kind of flowing with it, it feels like the piece is already there and I’m just helping it come out,” Frank explains. “It’s like the work is using me as a tool rather than me building it.”
A good example of this process is “Cat,” which emerged when he scattered a bunch of identical S-curved pieces of iron on the table. “I could start to see something emerging and I started playing and rearranging the pieces and just kind of let them go,” he says. “So it kind of created itself.”
Very cool, Frank!