With scraps of metal, artist shapes emotional pieces
Jim Adams remembers the moment he knew he had to create art from metal.
“I held two pieces of metal in my hands and I knew I held a pair of dog ears,” said Adams, a former information technologies man.
Because he sold welding equipment before, he knew about the craft. But it was when he stood before a dismantled truck that he had his epiphany.
“Metal speaks to me,” Adams said. “It asks to be something. So, I look at it and ask: ‘What are you?’”
The two joints of the truck’s axis became dog ears; the axis itself the dog’s body and thus Adams’ first welding creation was born. “Scrappy” the dog still stands watch outside Adams’ workshop in Sugar Land, and is one of his few pieces that isn’t for sale.
Adams has been an artist for nine years. He was fortunate to be picked up by many galleries throughout Harris and Galveston counties, he said.
His work has been on permanent display at Affaire d’Art gallery in Galveston’s downtown for the past five years. Galleries need floor space for his often sizable creations, such as an 8-foot set of opposing poles currently waiting for finishing touches.
Adams’ clients hail from all over. Recently, he shipped a series of scrap metal monsters to a collector in El Salvador.
Whimsy is not his signature style, however, but attributed to another area metal artist, Jim Love, who had created pieces for which Adams made bases. Adams’ own work is more earthy and dark, to use his own words.
Notable is his “Warrior” series consisting of nine pieces. Adams bent railway spikes into soldiers’ bodies. The nails-turned-figures portray the many moods that accompany warriors. There is eagerness, a surge of adrenaline, but also loneliness, boredom, loss, grief and devastation, all portrayed in the welding and shaping of blunt pieces of metal. Adams’ father recounted his World War II experiences to his son, telling him of a time as a soldier when he was so tired, he went to sleep on a pile of rocks. This weariness comes across in his son’s creation more than 70 years later.
“I wanted to show a soldier’s journey, from learning as a youngster to reaping war’s carnage,” Adams said. “It was emotionally exhausting to make these pieces.”
Adams has spent long periods of the past few years developing an art space in Kansas City, Mo., the state from which he hails.
“I know many hard-working artists deserving a chance to show,” Adams said of his project to create a showroom for unknown talent.
Adams wants to stay based in Houston and Galveston for the foreseeable future as he builds up a clientele and is recognizable, not always a simple feat in the art market.
Parts from burnt oil wells pile up in Adams’ garage next to chains and broken metal frames. Adams points to a 2-foot valve.
“This will require about 100 working hours,” Adams said. He diligently grinds off layers of rust to find the coatings underneath, such as brass.
The gold tones ask to be used as a portrayal of sunshine, and Adams plans to stand the valve up to capture sunlight through its middle, he said.
“There is a definite compulsion to be creative,” he said. “A command hailing from a certain place within.”
Adams tries to never buy scrap metal, but uses whatever he stumbles across or what’s given to him. Because his work can be noisy, Adams placates his neighbors by giving them all one of his creations for their yards.
The emotions his works elicit often are a powerful reminder for Adams of how art translates unspoken feelings.
“Sometimes, it’s jarring to me to realize I can make people cry with my work,” he said. “But it is also rewarding to be able to reach people with art made from metal.”